Celebrate: Song, Dance, and Story!



The ECHO Performing Arts Festival has brought together individuals from six different cultures (indigenous and immigrant) to create a mosaic of song, dance and story. Through this learning center, students will learn about traditional instruments and important cultural values from ethnic groups such as the Choctaw, Hawaiian, Iñupiaq, Portuguese, Yup’ik, and Wampanoag. Students will gain an understanding and appreciation of the diversity of cultures found within the United States.


To download the brochure for the 2010 Performing Arts Festival (photography by Brian Adams), click here.


This learning center is an ECHO partner collaboration. Ethan Petticrew is the author with significant contributions from Annawon Weeden, Robert Rocha, Joe Vinagre, the Bishop Museum Culture Education Hale, the Choctaw Culture Preservation Staff, and the IHC (Barrow) staff. Ethan would personally like to extend a huge qagaasakuq (Unangax word for thank-you) to all of the individuals involved in this learning center. Their cultural knowledge and educational expertise are a tremendous asset to the ECHO partnership.

Enduring Understandings

  • People of all cultures celebrate their values and identity through song, dance, and story.
  • Love of and responsibility toward family and friends are universal values.
  • Despite many changes in the lives of each culture over time, traditional values continue to guide the people today.

Time Required


This curriculum is designed using a "continuous progress curriculum" template. This model is based upon current research in education, and best practice. Student progress is based upon movement through the performance indicators (emerging, developing, proficient, and advanced), which can be found in the assessment sections at the bottom of each topic and page. Students should move through these stages at their own individual rates, depending on learning styles and mastery of concepts. This model makes "seat time" insignificant. However, teachers are encouraged to modify this curriculum and/or the assessment component to fit their unique situations.


Classroom Resources


Computer access

Internet access

Art paper


Power Point (upper level students may want this option for presentations or displays)


World Map

Materials (contemporary or traditional) for constructing an instrument 


Learning Objectives


Students will:

-  Recall traditional instruments belonging to the Choctaw, Hawaiian, Iñupiaq, Portuguese, Yup’ik, and Wampanoag cultures.

-  Identify specific cultures and their traditional locations in the world.

-  Illustrate two instruments, including their construction and usage.

-  Compare and contrast traditional instruments.

-  Research, design, and construct a traditional musical instrument.

-  List values from each of the six cultures represented in the learning center.

-  Classify the listed values into categories.

-  Compare and contrast their own family or cultural values with those from another culture.

-  Research and support values from another culture.

Background Information

Background Information


The cultures represented in this learning center come from many different places. Some culture-bearers still reside in their traditional homelands while others have traveled across oceans to find their current homes. Each of these cultures has a story to tell. Although the cultures and people are different, through these stories we begin to see that humans share some very important similarities. The cultural backgrounds are important because experiences have shaped each culture into a beautiful and vibrant group of people, with significant contributions to all mankind. Although the lives of the Choctaw, Native Hawaiian, Iñupiaq, Portuguese, Yup’ik, and Wampanoag people have changed significantly over time, many traditions and values continue to be carried on from generation to generation.


Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

The Choctaw are Native Americans from the southeastern part of the United States. Their original homeland includes Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama. Today, the Choctaw can be found primarily in Mississippi and Oklahoma. The Choctaw were considered one of the Five Civilized Tribes, and were forced into the removal, to become known as the Trail of Tears. The treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek signed over the tribal lands east of the Mississippi River. The signing of this treaty began the Choctaw move to Oklahoma (Choctaw word for Red-homa People-okla) Territory. The Choctaw who refused to leave the land of their mother mound hid out in the swamps and fringes of society and their descendents are now the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.


For more information on the Choctaw, see the following link:

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians



The Native Hawaiians are the indigenous people of the Hawaiian Archipelago. The Hawaiians belong to a group of people called the Polynesians, who were great ocean navigators. Many islands in the Pacific Ocean were settled by early Polynesians. The Hawaiian Islands were governed under several kingdoms until they were united by King Kamehameha I, who began the Hawaiian monarchy. Later, this monarchy fell, due to American influence. Today, the Native Hawaiians are experiencing a rich cultural revitalization. They have created a successful model for Indigenous Language Revitalization.


For more information on Native Hawaiians, see the following link:

Bishop Museum


Iñupiat of Alaska

The Iñupiat are the indigenous people from northern Alaska. Their villages and communities are located in Northwest Alaska, the North Slope, and along the Bering Straits. Iñupiaq people have traditionally gathered their food resources from the land, sea, and sky. Today, the Iñupiat still rely heavily on subsistence hunting and fishing. The Iñupiat are great whalers. Each year, the people hunt and utilize bowhead whales. The Iñupiat continue to be involved in Alaska’s oil industry which has been an important revenue source for the communities of the north. Climate change has now become a major concern for the Iñupiat and other northern peoples, since global warming has the potential to cause disastrous effects in the Arctic. This would severely impact the Iñupiaq way of life.


For more information on the Iñupiat, see the following links:

Iñupiat Heritage Center

Alaska Native Heritage Center


Portuguese Immigrants to the U.S.

The Portuguese people are native to the Iberian Peninsula in Europe,specifically the country of Portugal. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Portuguese were masters at sailing and ocean navigation. In the past, Portugal colonized parts of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. This resulted in Portuguese-speaking communities around the world. Starting in the 16th Century, Portuguese people began emigrating to places far away, such as the Americas, India, and Macau. The largest influx of Portuguese people to Brazil and the United States came between the middle of the 19th century and the late 1950’s. Today, many people of Portuguese descent live in the United States. States with sizable Portuguese populations include the New England states, New Jersey, California, and Hawaii.


For more information on the Portuguese people, see the following link:

Go Lisbon

Central Yup'ik

The Yup’ik are the aboriginal people of western and southwestern Alaska. Yup’ik people also live in the Bering Straits and Russian Far East. The Yup’ik people of southwest Alaska reside in communities on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, the Yukon, Kuskokwim, and Nushagak Rivers, and along the Bering Sea Coast from Bristol Bay in the south to Norton Sound in the north. The Yup’ik people continue to live a subsistence lifestyle. Many families still rely heavily on hunting and the gathering of resources in their environment for survival. Animals such as seal, beluga whale, caribou, and moose are hunted for food. Countless fish, including salmon and fresh water species, are also important food resources. In addition, small mammals, birds, berries, and greens also contribute significantly to the Yup’ik diet. The Yup’ik people have a rich history which includes elaborate presentations in the qasgiq (men’s house). Traditional festivals included songs, dances, and stories. Today, the Yup’ik people live modern lives, but hold on to their language, culture, values, and many of their traditional ways of living.


For more information on the Yup’ik people, see the following link:

Alaska Native Heritage Center



The Wampanoag are Native Americans from southern New England. Wampanoag lived in places such as Rhode Island and Massachusetts long before the Pilgrims arrived in North America. The Wampanoag seasonal cycle and the gathering of food resources consisted of fishing, planting, harvesting, and hunting. Many different types of fish and game were used for food. Corn, beans, and squash are very important crops in the Wampanoag culture.


During the 17th Century, the Wampanoag groups formed a confederacy which was led by a sachem. King Philip’s War was detrimental to the traditional lifestyle of the Wampanoag, even to those groups which remained neutral during the war.


Today, there are five groups of Wampanoags. However, only the Mashpee and Aquinnah groups have received federal recognition. Currently, the Wampanoag Language Reclamation Project is being implemented in hopes that the Wampanoag language will be spoken within their tribal territories.


For more information on the Wamapnoag, see the following links:

Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe

Musical Instruments

Musical Instruments

Musical instruments are an important part of the cultures represented in this learning center.  Although the instruments vary from one culture to the next and are made from vastly different materials, it is evident that in all of these cultures instruments play a significant role in the accompaniment of singing, dancing, and storytelling. Read the following information, review the pictures and videos, and follow links to learn more about instruments from these cultures.

Instruments from the Choctaw People

     One of the oldest traditional instruments that the Choctaw still use is the drum, which today is used primarily at stickball games. The drum which is now used by the Choctaw is modeled after the military drums used by British and American troops in the late eighteenth / nineteenth centuries, and the design has changed very little.

     The body of the drum is wood or sometimes metal. The wood used for this is usually sourwood, black gum or Tupelo gum. These trees are often hollow by the time they reach a suitable size for drums.

     When a likely tree is found, a section of approximately the size of the finished drum is cut from the trunk. The interior of the drum blank is cut to the desired size first, using chisels. Then the outside of the drum body is shaped using chisels and a draw-knife. When the desired thickness for the wall of the drum body is reached (less than 1/2 inch), the drum body is set aside to allow the wood to dry. Often at this stage the drum body will warp out of shape and will have to be discarded. If it survives the drying process, then the rims, head and rope laces are put on the new drum.

     The rims of the drum are made of strips of hickory which are bent into a hoop which will just fit around the drum body. A raw deer hide whose edges are wrapped around a second hickory hoop which is held tight by the rim of the drum forms the head of the drum. The rope laced around the sides of the drum is threaded through holes along the rim and is used to keep the head of the drum tight for playing.

     The final touch in making a drum is to attach the snares which are formed using small pieces of lead attached to a string which is fitted along the bottom of the drum. This gives the Choctaw drum its distinctive sound.

     A steady beat of the drum is heard through the hills announcing a time to assemble for the Choctaw people. Dancers may be gathering, stickball teams competing for community pride or someone may be getting married. The community knows the beat of the drum as the heart of the Choctaw people.

     Another instrument used by the Mississippi Choctaw to accompany their songs is a pair of striking sticks. The sticks traditionally, are not round but slightly flattened on two sides, affording suitable surfaces for striking together. Dance chanters use them to keep time as they sing. In 1933, ethnomusicologist Frances Densmore visited Philadelphia to record the songs of Choctaw chanters. She noted that striking sticks were used by most of the men who sang for her.

     The violin, or fiddle, has also found its way into Choctaw musical traditions. Like many rural southerners, Choctaws turned to the fiddle for entertainment in their isolated homes and communities. Fiddlers playing for house dances are usually accompanied by guitar players who provide a percussive rhythm. Years ago when no guitarist was available, the rhythm was supplied  by someone “beating straws” on the neck of the fiddle as it was being played.

     Aero-phones had become uncommon in the Southeast by the twentieth century, but cane and bone flutes appeared in eighteenth century sources (Swanton 1946:628). A few scholars in the 1900s described flutes, flageolets, and whistles used by Southeast Indians as solo instruments in ritual and social contexts.

     Mississippi Choctaw Medicine Men played vertical cane flutes on the night before a Ball Game and during the game to bring success to the home team players; these flutes, about 12 inches long with a sound hole and two finger

Compliments of the Cultural Affairs Program P.O. BOX 6010 Choctaw MS. 39350 www.choctaw.org

Instruments from the Portuguese People



     The reco-reco is an instrument used to offer rhythm to a music ensemble.   It is made from 3" diameter hollow wood (bamboo or sugar cane) and is usually between 18" and 24" long. It is notched laterally on the outer surface and is scraped by another piece of wood, bamboo or metal to offer a raspy "reco" sound.

     This instrument is used for traditional Portuguese music, since its construction is fairly rudimentary.  If a reco-reco is not available the sound can be copied by playing a washboard, a plastic water bottle or anything else with a corrugated outer surface. The reco-reco used in the Performing Arts Festival is a well-constructed, artistically crafted instrument.

     The reco-reco is based on an instrument first created in Angola, which was a Portuguese colony until 1975.  It is also used in Brazilian music and dance festivals.


Compliments of José Manuel Vinagre and  the New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, MA  

Instruments of the Wampanoag


Water drum


     Instruments of the Wampanoag have varied over time.  Long ago, sticks were used to beat a folded flap of deerskin.  These were some of the first percussion instruments beyond two sticks struck against one another or a rock. The flap of deerskin evolved into the water drums used today by many of the Eastern Woodland tribes.  The water drum can be made in a variety of ways in modern times.  Traditionally, the drum began as a small tree with a base about 4”-6” in diameter.  The tree would be cut into a small block about 6” tall.  The small piece of tree trunk was typically burned out to hollow the inside.  Wet deerskin would be stretched over the top and attached by a ring that would fit firmly around the skin and the circumference of the opening in the top of the hollowed piece of wood.  A small hole would be made in the side of the drum to insert a peg.  The peg could be easily removed once the entire drum was assembled to allow water to be added or taken out. The amount of water, along with the tightness of the deerskin, would offer different pitches and sounds to be achieved for fine-tuning the instrument. 


Compliments of Annawon Weeden and the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA   

Rattles (Wampanoag)


     The Wampanoag sing many songs accompanied by rattles.  Rattles come in many forms.  Some of the most artistic are made from turtle carapaces. Placing a turtle carcass on an ant hill would allow the entire body to be hollowed out. Once the meat was eaten from the carcass, the legs were sewn shut and the neck would be stretched out with a piece of wood embracing the inside.  The carcass was filled with pebbles, pieces of shell and other objects to allow the sound to be made when shaken. 


     Gourds cut open, filled with corn kernels and plugged with corn cobs would also be used as rattles, as would folded pieces of tree bark with various sound making objects inside (pebbles, etc.).  Other rattles are made from the lower portion of a deer leg.  The leg bone is used for a handle. Deer toe bones, and toe nails (hooves) were then attached to the end along with beads and other ornamentation.


Compliments of Annawon Weeden and the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA  


Video: Choctaw, Portuguese, and Wampanoag Instruments

This video highlights intruments used by the Choctaw, Portuguese, and Wampanoag. Information provided in the video addresses culture, construction, and usage.

Instruments from the Hawaiian People


‘Ili‘ili, Ipu, Pu‘ili

     The Hawaiian people are well known for the hula. The traditional dance style is called hula kahiko, hula or dance from ancient times. Hula awana is the hula known by most people.  Hula (native dancing) is often a significant part of Hawaiian celebrations. Oli, Hawaiian chants, are the songs that accompany the hula kahiko. Mele, or songs in general, are accompanied by ancient Hawaiian instruments as well as modern instruments such as the ‘ukulele and guitar. Traditional instruments were made from natural resources found in their environment. ‘Ili‘ili (stone castanets), Ipu (gourd drum), Pu‘ili (split bamboo stick) are some of the instruments used in hula. Following is a description of these Hawaiian instruments:

Hula Instruments



‘ili‘ili- stone castanets (‘ili‘ili—pebble).  Two water-worn pebbles of close grained lava are held in each hand and clicked together to mark the time in a sitting or standing hula. The stones may be found in wet or dry stream beds and along beaches. Very smooth, bubble-free stones that fit the dancer’s hands are preferred.


From Mitchell, Donald D. Kilolani.  Resource Units in Hawaiian Culture.  Rev. ed. Honolulu:  Kamehameha Schools Press.  1992.  Original ed. 1969, p. 48.


Compliments of the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii



Hula Instruments, continued




Ipu - gourd hula drum (also ipu hula, ipu heke, pā ipu).  This ipu is sounded by striking it (pa‘i) with the fingers and the palm of the right hand and by thumping (kū) the bottom against the matted floor or a folded piece of kapa.  The ipu [is] one of the most important instruments in marking time and emphasizing rhythm of the chant and the hula.

From Mitchell, Donald D. Kilolani.  Resource Units in Hawaiian Culture.  Rev. ed. Honolulu:  Kamehameha Schools Press.  1992.  Original ed. 1969, pp. 46-47.


Compliments of the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii

Hula Instruments, continued



pū‘ili - split bamboo rattle (pū—to sound, ‘ili—bark or skin).  A piece of bamboo some 20 inches long and one and one-half to two inches in diameter is split into narrow strips or strands except for a section of about five inches at one end which serves as a handle.  Bamboo is cut away to leave spaces between the strands.  The player or dancer produces a rustling sound when he taps the pū‘ili against his or his partner’s body, the floor mat, or another pū‘ili.


From Mitchell, Donald D. Kilolani.  Resource Units in Hawaiian Culture.  Rev. ed. 

Honolulu:  Kamehameha Schools Press.  1992.  Original ed. 1969, p. 48.


Compliments of the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii 

Instruments from the Iñupiaq People


Qilaun: The Iñupiaq Drum

     Iñupiaq people have danced and drummed for centuries. Early missionaries came to the land of the Iñupiaq and tried to ban “Eskimo” dancing, but the Iñupiaq people kept dancing alive and strong. Even today, the dancing and drumming continues, and is said to be getting stronger. The drumming has been referred to as the heartbeat of the Iñupiaq people.


     Traditional drum frames and sticks are made of drift wood. The covering of the drum can be made of either liver membrane of the bowhead whale or the stomach membrane of a walrus or even the hide of a young caribou. These types of drum coverings are extremely delicate. As the membranes dry, they tighten. Drummers must constantly wet their drums in order to keep them from ripping during a performance. The handle of the drum can be made of walrus tusk ivory, caribou antlers, or a piece of wood.


     Today, the Iñupiaq people also use modern materials to make traditional drums. These materials include light hardwood or hickory to make the drum frame and stick. Even the covering can be made with modern materials such as parachute fabric. Some dance groups still use the traditional liver membrane of the bowhead whale or the hide of a young caribou to cover their drums.


     The drum is beat from the bottom. The stick actually hits the rim of the drum frame. In the first part of the song, the drummer lightly taps the drum frame with his stick. During the second part of the song, the drummer vigorously beats the bottom of the drum causing the stick to bow and hit not only the frame but also the bottom of the drum head. It is struck with such force that it actually makes a sound similar to that of a gun.


     Traditionally, the men sat in a line, many of them being drummers. The lead singer is seated in the middle of this line. Women, whose voices sing in accompaniment with the drumming, sit behind the male drummers. Occasionally, women take over drumming which gives the men a chance to get up and dance.


     Singing, dancing, and drumming bring joy to the Iñupiaq people across the North Slope of Alaska. No matter which village you travel to, you surely can be welcomed with the Iñupiaq drum.


Compliments of the North Slope Borough, Barrow, Alaska

Instruments from the Yup’ik People


Cauyaq: The Yup’ik Drum


     The cauyaq (drum) is an instrument which is traditionally used to make music in the Yup’ik culture. It is a large hoop which is covered traditionally with walrus or seal membrane (gut). Today, many drum coverings are made from ceconite (polyester airplane fabric) and other modern materials, although some communities still use sea mammal membrane.


     The drum is struck on the topside with a small wooden rod. The drumbeats of Yup’ik music are regular and steady, often in a 2/4 meter. There may be one or more drummers at any given time. Drummers will most often sit in a straight line behind the dancers. The lead drummer is usually placed in the middle. This individual is often the song leader as well.


   The drumming is accompanied by singing, performed by both drummers and others sitting alongside and/or behind the drummers. The song leader will usually call out the verses during a performance, and during some songs, actually sings a short verse in solo before the entire group sings. The singing is performed in unison.


Compliments of the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, Alaska  

Video: Hawaiian, Iñupiaq, and Yup'ik Instruments

This video highlights instruments used by the  Hawaiian, Iñupiaq, and Yup'ik. Information provided in the video addresses culture, construction, and usage.

Musical Instruments: Activities & Standards

Musical Instruments: Activities & Standards

Teaching Suggestions for Musical Instruments:


Utilizing the resources above, as well as others, have the students do a number of activities such as:

-  Create a map with specific cultures shown in their traditional territories. Create symbols for instruments that are unique to each culture. Match the instruments to the appropriate culture.

-  Design and create a display or presentation which gives information on two different instruments from two different cultures. Include information and illustrate their design and usage.

-  Create a PowerPoint presentation that compares and contrasts the different instruments highlighted in this learning center.

-  Using information found in this learning center and other sources, construct a traditional instrument.

Check for Understanding and Assessment


            This assessment component has been created using a continuous progress curriculum and assessment model. Students are expected to reach proficiency at their own rate, and according to their individual learning styles. This Standards-based form of assessment relies heavily upon performance at a proficient level, coupled with meaningful learning experiences that assist the learner in reaching mastery of the national standards.


Assessment on Musical Instruments



Creates a list of traditional instruments, their respective culture, and where these cultures are located in the world.



Chooses at least two instruments from two different cultures, and illustrates their construction and usage.



Compares and contrasts the traditional instruments used by different cultures (e.g., Choctaw, Hawaiian, Iñupiaq, Portuguese, Yup’ik, Wampanoag, etc.)



Researches, designs, and constructs a musical instrument from one or two cultures (e.g.., Choctaw, Hawaiian, Iñupiaq, Portuguese, Yup’ik, and Wampanoag).






Standard 10

Human Systems

Understands the nature and complexity of Earth’s cultural mosaics.

Level III Grades 3-5

  3.  Understands how cultures differ in their use of similar environments and resources.



Language Arts

Standard 4


Gathers and uses information for research purposes.

  Level III Grades 6-8

   2.  Uses a variety of resource materials to gather information for research topics.




Standard 7

Understands the relationship between music and history and culture.

Level II Grades3-5

Knows how basic elements of music are used in music from various cultures of the world.

Level III Grades 6-8  

    1.  Understands distinguishing characteristics (e.g., relating to instrumentation, texture, rhythmic qualities, melodic lines, form) of representative music genres and styles from a variety of cultures. 



Cultural Values

Cultural Values

     There are many different types of values. Some values are personal, while others are based on the family. Every culture teaches shared values that indicate what is important or meaningful to that group of people. Prominent cultural values of the groups represented in the Performing Arts Festival include: sharing, spirituality, family, honor, and knowledge of language.

     Values are usually passed from one generation to the next. Values are often represented in cultural stories, such as the Yup'ik values found in this video. Listen, watch, and read, in the following section, as culture bearers sing, dance, and tell stories meant to teach important cultural values around the world.



     The Choctaw have many values, but one in particular is connected to the drum and chant sticks. Both the drum and the chant sticks communicate a sense of coming together for teams and communities. The value of community is evident and strong and holds the tribe together. This is clearly observed at Choctaw celebrations, where community members gather to drum, sing, and dance.


     Other Choctaw cultural values include humility and respect.


Compliments of the Cultural Affairs Program P.O. BOX 6010 Choctaw MS. 39350 



     Maintaining family and community connections is very important to the Portuguese.  One way to do this is through music, especially traditional folk music, the music of the people.  Participation did not require formal instruments.  Sometimes two spoons, a water pot and a fan, cooking pots and covers or hitting two rocks together would be the accompaniment to the singing.


     However, many individuals played the traditional instruments.  Mandolin, 4-string mini guitar called the cavaquinho (the basis for the Hawaiian ukulele), button cord concertina, tambor (drum) and the reco-reco were used in all settings. 


     Once the music got started it was common for friends and other family members to drop by with their instruments and start playing.  These gatherings could go for several hours and sometimes into the middle of the night, if the neighbors didn’t mind.


Compliments of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, New Bedford, MA 



     Among all the camaraderie seen throughout the Pilgrimage travels of the Puritans at Plymouth, they say the brotherhood of the Wampanoag is above the rest.  Hunting together, traveling for trade together, gathering resources together, the Wampanoag people dedicate a large portion of their lives to helping one another on a daily basis.  Whenever a passer by comes into a Wampanoag home, it has always been custom to feed first, before engaging in business or relations. This custom continues today due to the many resources still abundant from the land and waters of Southeastern Massachusetts.   Therefore, the custom of camaraderie is not strictly among the Wampanoag people but a relationship shared with other cultures.  This explains their willingness to work with the Puritan pilgrims who arrived in 1620 and feasted together (Thanksgiving) in the fall of 1621. 


     Children are considered precious gifts and are treated accordingly. Hitting children was not done unless raising the child to be a pniese. A pniese was the highest level of warrior a community would ever have. They were at times considered to be invulnerable due to the punishment endured during their training from adolescence. The colonists thought Wampanoag children were spoiled due to the reverse psychology used while raising the youth. If a child is encouraged to play, even when they wish to help, it would result in the child's eagerness to embrace adulthood. The tasks, such as weaving, carving, hunting, gardening and more, were all introduced at young ages but not mandatory for a child to perform, unlike the Puritan children who were expected to work at a very young age to increase material wealth for their family. This also prevented the children of both cultures from interacting with one another. It was said that a Wampanoag boy could have 100 yards worth of accuracy with his bow by the tender age of 14.


     The young man would still need to prove his ability to provide housing, clothing and food for a family prior to approaching the family of his wife to be. If the family approved of him, the decision was up to the woman to accept him or not. When a girl reached her first moon cycle, she would cut her hair shoulder length. When it grew out, she would then be eligible for marriage. The females would perform a "Blanket Dance" to show their selection before the entire community. As the dance begins, the woman dances almost entirely wrapped in the blanket. As the song continues, she begins to reveal a little more as the dance goes on. If she decided on her mate, she would end the dance by dropping her blanket in front of the groom to be.


Compliments of Annawon Weeden and the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA  

Hawaiian Values

Aloha, Mālama, and Kuleana

     These values are a part of everyday Hawaiian life. Aloha is a word that can be used to communicate love, affection, compassion, and sympathy. When aloha is used with children, parents, grandparents, siblings, lovers, and best friends it represents unconditional love. The concept of aloha can also be extended to places such as the land and the sea. Aloha ‘āina, love of the land, is a well respected value by the indigenous people of Hawai‘i.


     Hawaiians practiced good stewardship of the land and sea. Today, this important value carries on in modern Hawaiian culture. Mālama means to care for, to protect, to maintain, and to attend to. It means to care for one another. Examples of mālama can be seen in relationships such as elder brother of younger brother, aunt to niece, teacher to student, and nurse to patient. Mālama is extended to inanimate objects such as the land and ocean. Mālama ‘āina means to care for the land, while mālama kai is to care for the ocean.


     Kuleana is another value that refers to a person’s responsibilities at home, school, work, and in the community.  Kuleana conveys privilege, responsibility, and area of responsibility.  Kuleana is the work of fishermen, farmers, gardeners, weavers, and can even mean the government’s responsibility.


Compliments of the Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii



Afuniallaniq – Hunting Traditions

     Reverence for the land, sea and animals is the foundation of our hunting traditions. The Iñupiaq people have survived in this harsh climate for centuries. We have lived off the animals that the land, sea and air bring to us. The hunting traditions are passed on from generation to generation to ensure that the survival of our Iñupiaq people remains.


Qiksiksrautiqabniq – Respect for Nature

     Our creator gave us the gift of our surroundings. Those before us placed ultimate importance on respecting this magnificent gift for their future generations. It is said when one catches a polar bear, you must cut across its windpipe to release its spirit to be free to become something else.


Aviktauqatigiigeiq – Sharing

     It is amazing how sharing works: your acts of giving will always come back. When sharing your catch, it’s known that your next hunt will also be successful. And it’s always better to give than receive. Also, in our tradition, the first catch of any animal by a hunter must all be given away to the elders in the community.  


     To explore even more Iñupiaq values, click here.  


Compliments of the North Slope Borough, Barrow, Alaska



Hunter Success/Learn Hunting and Outdoor Survival Skills 

     The Yup’ik depend heavily upon subsistence, even today. Subsistence refers to hunting and gathering of food that is found naturally in one’s environment. The Yup’ik culture teaches that subsistence is a source of great wealth. The Yup’ik culture traditionally was defined by subsistence resources. Today, many of these same resources continue to define Yup’ik cultural practices. Subsistence patterns were centered on both the coastal and inland regions stretching from Bristol Bay along the Bering Sea coast to Norton Sound. Inland, life was closely tied to the major rivers of Bristol Bay, the Yukon River, and the Kuskokwim River.


     The availability of fish, game, and plants determine the location of seasonal camps and villages. Yup’ik people living along the coast are hunters of beluga whales, seals, sea lions, and walrus. They also harvest salmon, herring, halibut, flounder, trout, burbot, whitefish, blackfish and crabs. Yupiit (plural for Yup’ik) living inland are more heavily dependent upon  salmon and freshwater fish. They often hunt moose, caribou, muskrats, mink, and other fur-bearing animals. Migratory waterfowl, bird eggs, and a variety of seasonal berries, greens, and roots help sustain people throughout the region. Spring, summer, and fall activities are centered upon hunting, fishing and gathering food.

Yup'ik Blackfish Dance

      Fall and winter fishing often utilized wooden fish traps known as taluyat to catch blackfish and other species. These traps varied in size and shape. Many traps were made from split spruce which was bound with spruce root. The taluyaq (singular) is still made and used today in subsistence fishing; however, sometimes modern materials are used in its construction. Nonetheless, fish traps remain an integral part of fishing along the major rivers of Bristol Bay and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

     The Yup'ik dance found on this video is called the Blackfish Dance. Yup'ik dances often tell stories through hand motions. Watch this video and see how many human and fish actions you can identify. Both the blackfish dance and story (top of this page) teach valuable lessons. How can these lessons be applied to everyday life?

     Click here to discover more Yup'ik values.

Compliments of the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, Alaska  

Cultural Values: Activities & Standards

Cultural Values: Activities & Standards

Teaching Suggestions for Cultural Values:

Utilizing the resources above, as well as others, have the students do a number of activities such as:

-  Describe a value from each of the cultures represented in this learning center, and explain the importance of each particular value to its cultural group.

-  Create a display that categorizes values from different cultures (e.g., sharing, family, spirituality, etc.).

-  Compare and contrast their own cultural values with those of another culture (e.g., Venn diagram, etc.).

-  Debate the merit of a value from another culture.


Check for Understanding and Assessment


     This assessment component has been created using a continuous progress curriculum and assessment model. Students are expected to reach proficiency at their own rate, and according to their individual learning styles. This Standards-based form of assessment relies heavily upon performance at a proficient level, coupled with meaningful learning experiences that assist the learner in reaching mastery of the national standards.


Assessment on Cultural Values



Recalls values from each of the six cultures represented in the ECHO Performing Arts Festival and this learning center, and identifies the cultures associated to these values.



Classifies the different values (e.g., sharing, family, language) found within the learning center and/or Performing Arts Festival.



Examines one’s own cultural values and compares and contrasts those values with a set of values from another culture.



Selects, researches, and debates the merit of a value from another culture.



Cultural Values


Standard 8

Understands the central ideas of American constitutional government and how this form of government has shaped the character of American society.


1.  Knows the fundamental values of American democracy (e.g., individual rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness; equality and diversity, etc.).

     1.8 Understands diversity as a value of American democracy.