Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

Ecosystems of Teaching and Learning: An Ethnography of Iñupiaq Song and Dance

Smith, David E. K. (2023) Ecosystems of Teaching and Learning: An Ethnography of Iñupiaq Song and Dance. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Download (1MB) | Preview


There is a jarring dissonance between Alaskan educational policy and Alaska Native ways of teaching and learning, a divide especially visible in how cultures interact with nature. As policymakers reconcile the colonial history of education in Alaska, they should look to how education has always happened among Alaska Native people. One foundational Native educational practice is song and dance. This dissertation is an ethnography of Iñupiaq Alaska Native song and dance, drawing from decolonial participatory action research and extensive interviews of Iñupiaq Elders, educators, and youth. These groups are what Lave and Wenger (1991) describe as communities of practice: groups that learn situated within a shared interest. Exploring how teaching and learning happen in Indigenous arts-based communities of practice, I (1) reconceptualize Wenger’s (2002) community of practice to allow for Iñupiaq understandings of animals and the land as integral interlocutors in the learning process, creating what I term an ecosystem of practice; (2) outline what is taught and learned including cultural heritage, practical skills, and values; and (3) investigate how the arts can be used as a culturally responsive pedagogical model for addressing pressing social issues. I find that Alaska Native song and dance functions as a holistic pedagogical strategy that simultaneously teaches and intergenerationally transmits critical cultural knowledge while fostering a sustainable ecosystem through engaging with all teachers and learners, the human and other-than-human. As an expansion into the growing field of arts-based culturally responsive pedagogy, this research has important implications for educational policy across cultures and borders, through better understanding the transmission of Indigenous knowledge and elucidating the relationship between education, humanity, and nature.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Smith, David E. K.des194@pitt.edudes194
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorPorter, Maureen K.mporter@pitt.edumporter
Committee MemberGunzenhauser, Michaelmgunzen@pitt.edumgunzen
Committee MemberTheriault,
Committee MemberTopkok,
Date: 22 May 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 4 April 2023
Approval Date: 22 May 2023
Submission Date: 11 April 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 175
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ethnography, Alaska Native Dance, Comparative Education, Indigenous Education, Community of Practice, Ethnomusicology
Date Deposited: 22 May 2023 12:53
Last Modified: 22 May 2023 12:53


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item