White Eye Traditional Knowledge Camp

Summer 2017 participants


The White Eye Traditional Knowledge Camp is the manifestation of the ideas and concerns that
Gwich’in Elder Paul Williams Sr. had regarding the local knowledge of Gwich’in Elders and its
survival. Intended as a place of learning for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike, the
Camp is in its first year and continues to be developed for future students. As of now the Camp
consists only of a few basic improvements: this summer a smokehouse, an outhouse, and a fish
wheel were constructed, as well as areas cleared for tents. The camp was attended (2016) by
nine people ranging in age from 11 to 79 years of age, and all participated at their own expense.
As we continue to develop the Camp, we are using in part as a model the Old Minto Camp that
still exists as a substance abuse recovery camp, and that used to host the Center for Cross-
Cultural Studies’ traditional knowledge class and camp attended by University of Alaska
graduate students. It is our hope that this now-inactive initiative can be revived, but now at
White Eye on the middle Yukon River between the communities of Beaver and Fort Yukon.
Two University of Alaska Fairbanks students joined the camp last summer (2016) at their own
expense, though the camp is not yet ready for accepting fee-paying university students at this
time. It is our hope that this capacity can be attained for next summer (2018), or at the latest the
summer thereafter.
Currently the Camp is located near a place called in English “White Eye” on eighty acres owned
by Mr. Williams. He is dedicated and devoted to using his own resources for this effort, but with
such limited resources those of us involved cannot fund the camp’s needs individually. We
therefore seek support for this effort. As a faculty member with the Center for (Department of)
Cross-Cultural Studies I am acting as a facilitator for this effort and I consider myself an ongoing
student of the local, traditional, Indigenous knowledge of Elders such as Paul Williams. Other
Elders, too, would be asked to participate in this program once it is fully operational.
Activities at the camp include a great array of skill-building efforts: hide tanning, fishing, fish
and meat cutting, making and using snares and traps, building and using a fish wheel,
maintaining and using gill nets, survival skills, cooking and preservation of food (especially meat
and fish), canoe-making, sled-making, and much more. Important, though, is that not only
practical skills such as these are taught, but moral and ethical considerations and behaviors are
also taught, and these are meaningfully situated within local and Gwich’in worldviews, lifeways,
and cosmology. The connections between daily and survival activities with behavior and
self-conduct are emphasized within the holistic local knowledge systems.
The White Eye Traditional Knowledge Camp is an effort to preserve and revitalize the local
traditional Indigenous knowledge carried by Gwich’in culture-bearers by passing it on to
younger generations who can use it in their day-to-day lives—both for external needs and for
internal ‘tools’ for coping with life’s challenges. Through the efforts of the Elders who are
and/or who will be associated with the Camp, coupled with the support of UAF’s Center for
Cross-Cultural Studies and our generous financial supporters, we hope to disseminate and
translate the Elders’ knowledge, with their help and guidance. As with the associated Gwich’in
Elders’ Traditional Knowledge Project, the primary goal of the Camp is cultural and linguistic
revitalization for the health and wellbeing of local communities, and the passing on of this
knowledge to all who are interested.

For more information contact:

Paul Williams, Sr., Director,

Phone: (907) 628-6213


Michael Koskey

Phone: (907) 474-6992

Email: whiteeyetkproject@gmail.com

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