Ciuliqagtekaput family fun nightIn Yup’ik, Ciuliqagtekaput is “Our Future Leaders.” It is also the namesake of an organization aimed at improving school readiness for children in the remote villages of Akiachak, Akiak, and Tuluksak, located near Bethel.

Federally funded through Alaska Native Education grants, Ciuliqagtekaput cultivates intergenerational and early learning in children ages birth to 3, developing literacy skills through traditional dance, storytelling, and song. Throughout this process, there is also a sense of reclaiming traditions and instilling traditional Yup’ik values.

When a Yup’ik child reaches school age they not only have to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind, they must also be grounded in culture-specific values, pride, practices, traditions, and subsistence lifestyles.

“They are living in two worlds,” said Sharon Anderson, Ciuliqagtekaput director and grant administrator. “This can be challenging and overwhelming for parents of young children, especially with a lack of age and culturally-appropriate, bilingual materials.”

Ciuliqagtekaput programs and projects
  • In Home Visits: This program provides parents with shared knowledge of strategies and age-appropriate materials to encourage oral language development. Staff employed from within the community visit the homes of families with infants and toddlers each week. They work with the parents to share activities and model interactive techniques for reading aloud and early language development, reinforce the importance of daily reading, and help families build libraries of quality children’s literature by distributing books provided through federal funding. Parents are encouraged to use the language of the home in reading or telling the story of a carefully chosen book.
  • Family Fun Nights: Monthly family meetings bring elders, parents and children together for storytelling, songs, games, and more. A goal of the grant is to incorporate the wisdom and teachings of the Elders who are extremely valued as transmitters and translators of their culture. Parents have high regard for their knowledge of child rearing, patience, learning and language, history, health, safety, values, and the practices unique to their way of life – critical to survival and for empowering children to flourish in life.
  • Family Storytelling and Traditional Dance DVD Projects: Ciuliqagtekaput is capturing Elders and families on film relaying stories and interacting with young children to compile into a DVD resource for early learning. All families with young children were invited to participate. Clips include a grandmother telling traditional tales and sharing stories of her childhood; a mother singing with her child, an entire family reading a favorite book in English, and a grandfather sharing an English-language book in Yupik. The Ciuliqagtekaput Arts dance DVD will teach songs that incorporate elements of everyday concepts (such as under-over) with traditional dance movements. Both of these arts-based projects can grow and sustain early language development in the language of the home and add to a foundation for early literacy over time.

“Ciuliqagtekaput, Our Future Leaders, is committed to linking the critically important elements of family interaction, culture, home language, storytelling, traditional music and dance in supporting the language and early literacy development of infants and toddlers,” added Anderson.

To find out more about Ciuliqagtekaput, contact Sharon Anderson,

This article appeared in the March 2008 Best Beginnings E-newsletters. Please refer to our Content Reproduction Policy if you are interested in reproducing content provided on this website.

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