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Cultural Uses of Wood
Driftwood Journey Curriculum

Lesson Summary
: Students will understand the importance of wood in the lives of their ancestors.


  • Students will appreciate the ingenuity of the Alutiiq people and their dependence and application of the available resources to their needs.
  • Students will understand the connection between the characteristics of a certain wood and its purpose.

Materials needed:

  • artifacts from local museums or from local people
  • journals
  • pictures of artifacts and tools

People to be included: Elders, museum curator


Gear up: Check with museum if a visit or a kit can be shared with the students. Also check with local people to bring in wooden tools.


  1. What could this be used for?
  2. Compare weight of the wood to another tool. Based on your observations the other day, what kind of wood do you think this is?
  3. Look at the shape and design. Draw a picture of it in your journal.
  4. What is the Alutiiq name of the tool?
  5. Wood uses:
    • Fur stretchers
    • Trapping (weasels or tummuk – introduce Alutiiq words whenever possible
    • Dory knees
    • Sod houses / barabras / ciqlluaq
    • Smoking fish
    • Steam bath / banya / magiwik
    • Heat – for personal use and cooking
    • Weapons and other tools
    • Utensils (bowls, spoons, ulus, etc.)
    • Recreation (drums)
    • Burial boards
    • Ceremonial masks
    • Wenneke (alder branches with leaves used in banya)
    • Hats (spruce root hats, bentwood hats)
    • Baskets
    • Fish hooks
    • Dolls
    • Drying rack for fish
    • Tent frames
    • Decorations and personal enjoyment
    • Ash for cleaning purposes
    • Yokes for carrying water


  • Name the different past uses of wood that you’ve learned.
  • What are some of the things made from wood in your house?
  • Are different woods used for different things?
  • Could we make all those things from driftwood?
  • What do we use driftwood for today?

Driftwood and its uses, page 16, Red Cedar of Afognak
Driftwood has many uses
Lesson Outline:
    1. A Driftwood Story
    2. Properties of Wood
    3. Cultural Uses of Wood – Past and Present
    4. Tides – Gravitational Pull of the Moon
    5. Wind, Tides and Currents
    6. Earthquakes and Tsunamis
    7. Afognak and the 1964 Tsunami
        (Camp version, classroom version)
    8. Celebration of Trees
        •  Driftwood Art
        •  Driftwood Stories and Poems
    9. Celebrating Alutiiq Customs and Traditions

    Appendix: Resources Used


Driftwood Lessons

Carving Driftwood
Carving Driftwood with an elder