Alaska Native Organizations Form Teaching Partnership to Bring Culture and Technology Together

Partnership launched May 3 and ANSEP students helped to develop 3D models of 19th century Tlingit Chilkat robe during Career Explorations Week. All photos courtesy: Alaska Native Heritage Center

Anchorage, AK – The Alaska Native Heritage Center, Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program and Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium have formed a new partnership to bridge the gap between culture and modern technology for the next generation of Alaskans. The Naaxein Teaching Partnership gets its name from the Tlingit word for robe, as a 19th century Tlingit Chilkat robe is at the center of the collaboration.

The Naaxein Teaching Partnership’s first project will take place during ANSEP’s 2022 Acceleration Academy Career Explorations Week. From May 3 – 5, more than 20 students from ANSEP’s full-time Acceleration Academy high school component in Anchorage, the Mat-Su and Bethel will work alongside professionals to use advanced 3D modeling hardware and software to scan and create virtual reality versions of the delicate Chilkat robe at ANHC. Students will also work with ANTHC on a 3D imaging project based on a Koliganek water treatment facility. The students will learn how to turn scanned artifacts into objects viewable on phones, tablets and other devices.

“We want our students to understand that tradition and culture aren’t separate from modern science and technology. They don’t have to choose one or the other. As evidenced by our projects with the Naaxein Teaching Partnership, the two are intertwined,” said ANSEP Founder & Vice Provost Dr. Herb Schroeder.

ANHC was recently gifted a 120-year-old intricately woven Chilkat robe. The robe’s journey to becoming a modern learning tool begins on May 3, when the team will use advanced modeling software to scan the delicate robe and develop a virtual reality copy that can be shared and studied around the world.

“This Naaxein is a teaching robe,” said Emily Edenshaw (Yup’ik/Iñupiaq), ANHC President and CEO. “It’s remarkable to see that hundreds of years later we are able to uphold the purpose of this robe through technology.”

Building upon that experience, students will use the same technology to model a water treatment plant for rural Alaska with training from the Trimble Education Program. An Environmental Health & Engineering project team from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium will provide additional training and context for rural Alaska engineering and construction. ANTHC is also collaborating with the Trimble Visiting Professionals Program to show the intersection where scanning and surveying meet. The Trimble Visiting Professionals and ANTHC will teach the students the workflow from turning 3D scans into a 3D computer-aided design to build a water treatment plant.

“The Naaxein Teaching Partnership is an incredible opportunity for our community to highlight the brilliance of our youth,” said Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson, President and CEO of Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. “This collaborative project allows students to use their skills in engineering, construction and problem-solving to preserve and advance our cultures while developing their careers.”

The initial 3D rendering of the Chilkat robe will be made available by the end of ANSEP Acceleration Academy Career Explorations Week. The robe itself will also be on display at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in the next year, following construction of a custom case to ensure good stewardship of this priceless cultural item.

The Naaxein Teaching Partnership plans to collaborate on similar projects in the future to preserve cultural heritage, use technology to bridge the gap between the past and future and to open clear career paths for Alaska’s youth.

About Alaska Native Heritage Center
The Alaska Native Heritage Center (ANHC) is a living cultural center located in Anchorage, Alaska, that promotes active observance of Alaska Native culture and traditions. As the only statewide cultural and education center dedicated to celebrating all cultures and heritages, ANHC serves as a statewide resource for Alaska Natives from birth until Elder and celebrates Alaska Natives from all of Alaska’s Native cultures, including Iñupiaq, St. Lawrence Island Yupik, Athabascan, Eyak, Haida, Tsimshian, Tlingit, Unangax̂, Alutiiq/Sugpiaq, Yup’ik, and Cup’ik. For more information about events and programs, visit

The Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program is part of the University of Alaska system. The program works to effect systemic change in the hiring patterns of Alaska Natives in science, technology, engineering and mathematics career fields by placing its students on a path to leadership. Beginning in kindergarten, ANSEP’s sequential model continues through high school and into undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs, allowing students to succeed at rates far exceeding national numbers. With ANSEP’s full-time Acceleration Academy component, students can go from eighth grade to having a bachelor’s degree in just five years. More information is available at

About Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium is a nonprofit Tribal health organization designed to meet the unique health needs of Alaska Native and American Indian people living in our state. The Consortium is the largest, most comprehensive Tribal health organization in the United States, and an employer of more than 3,000 health service professionals. Our services include specialty medical care at the Alaska Native Medical Center, community wellness programs, disease research and prevention, rural provider training and rural water and sanitation systems construction across Alaska.

Native Business Magazine

Native Business Magazine

Carmen Davis - Founder, Publisher and Executive Editor

Mrs. Davis is the founder, publisher and executive editor of the only Native American wholly owned and operated national tribal business publication, Native Business Magazine, and the producer of the annual and nationally attended Native Business Summit.

Mrs. Davis is also president of Davis Strategy Group has over 23 years of service to Indian Country and as an entrepreneur she has successfully established, operated, managed and grown several businesses in multiple sectors. She is equal parts a strategic visionary and behind-the-scenes implementor, essential in guiding and overseeing every process of brand development, business expansion, nation-to-nation relationship building and more.

She was named in 2009 as one of the first recipients of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s, “40 Under 40” award which recognizes up and coming community and business leaders from across Indian Country.