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Episode 23: Boarding Schools in Alaska feat. Benjamin Jacuk

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

Coffee & Quaq Episode 23: Boarding Schools in AK, featuring Benjamin Jacuk.

Benjamin Jacuk-Dolchok (Dena’ina Athabascan, Sugpiaq) is the Indigenous Researcher at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.

Benjamin is the son of Katrina Jacuk-Dolchok, the grandson of Mack Dolchok and is tribally enrolled in the Kenaitze Indian Tribe. Benjamin has worked in many different areas for the betterment of Alaska Native peoples such as the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues and had done extensive research into the Church-run Boarding School Project. Benjamin became the first Alaska Native to speak at a World Council of Churches assembly, as he did at the recent 2022 Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany speaking out against the church-run Boarding Schools, Doctrine of Discovery, and ecological matters. Benjamin has a passion for the well-being and restoration of identity for all Alaska Native peoples and communities.

This episode focuses on the history of assimilation schools in Alaska, Sheldon Jackson’s ties to other assimilative institutions in the Lower 48 and around the world, and some discussion on healing and learning from our collective past. This is a sensitive topic for many, and while most of this episode doesn’t necessarily focus on trauma, please take your time, take care of yourself, and listen only when you feel ready and willing.

Quyanaqpak Benjamin Jacuk for taking the time to sit down with me, helping us all better understand the historic systemic approaches of Boarding Schools in AK. I hope all you listeners are taking care of yourself!

I’m Alice Qannik Glenn, over and out.

To learn more about the Alaska Native Heritage Center, visit

"Even though Alaska is ground zero for all these atrocities concerning the boarding school, even though the origin is here, for all Indigenous peoples, I believe that that means that we can also be the origin of healing for all of these Indigenous peoples, not only Alaskan Natives, not only Lower 48 Natives, not only First Nations peoples but every Indigenous people." - Benjamin Jacuk-Dolchok (Dena’ina Athabascan, Sugpiaq)


  • Introduction to this episode. 0:00

    • Episode 23, history of boarding schools in Alaska.

    • Alaska is ground zero for all Indigenous peoples.

    • Churches are the biggest landowners in the world.

    • What land back means for the churches.

    • Native heritage in Alaska, Australia and New Zealand.

    • Favorite native food in Alaska.

  • What is a boarding school and what does it mean? 7:04

    • Lessons learned in the short time they have known each other.

    • The main goal.

    • Negative implications of boarding schools.

    • The importance of understanding the truth.

    • What a boarding school is in Alaska.

  • Criteria of a boarding school. 13:43

    • Four criteria for a boarding school in Alaska.

    • Housing, educational aspect, and religious training.

    • The use of reindeer in Alaska.

    • Reindeer as a food source in the 1970s.

    • The history of boarding schools in Alaska.

    • The ecclesial era, the modernization era and the Carlisle era.

  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs. 21:23

    • The third era, the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

    • Alaska-specific boarding schools and timelines associated with them.

    • Anglican episcopalian involvement in the area in the 1850s.

    • Americanization and Christianity in Alaska.

  • What did Sheldon Jackson learn from his time in Oklahoma? 27:23

    • How Sheldon Jackson became the superintendent for the Presbyterian church.

    • The significance of resource extraction.

    • Establishing the first Presbyterian school in Alaska.

    • The history of splitting up land in Alaska.

    • Assimilation of people to the resources.

    • Alaska predates the comity plan of Canada.

  • Sheldon Jackson’s influence in Alaska. 35:02

    • Sheldon Jackson and his influence in the world.

    • Militarization and boarding schools in Alaska.

    • Methodists and Presbyterians are all about systems.

    • The Christian nationalistic movement has its roots in boarding schools.

    • The connection between religion and nationalism in Roman culture.

    • The link between Christianity and religious imperialism.

  • Religious universities and nationalism. 42:45

    • Nationalism and religion are synonymous.

    • The leader of Liberty University in Florida.

    • Prior to the implementation of religious schools in Alaska.

    • Life for Native students in boarding schools.

    • Failure is okay and a stepping stone to learn.

    • Education in Alaska.

  • The diversity of boarding schools with elders. 50:00

    • Diverse experiences in boarding schools with elders.

    • Understanding and defining what consists of a good experience.

    • The importance of having a trigger warning.

    • Levels of civilization and abuse.

    • Systems of abuse throughout the state.

    • The evil of abuse becoming systematized.

  • The dehumanization of our elders. 57:01

    • Dehumanization of elders and physical abuse of children.

    • Unmarked graves in south-central Alaska.

    • The removal of children from their communities.

    • The humanization of non-Americanized children.

  • What is the heritage center doing around boarding schools? 1:02:48

    • What the heritage center is doing around boarding schools.

    • Research program on boarding schools in Alaska.

    • Know what you need healing from.

    • Native history does not begin with colonization.

    • How to tell the story that elders never were able to.

    • The importance of doing it responsibly.

  • Education for native peoples in Alaska. 1:10:35

    • Thoughts on what education for native peoples looks like today.

    • The future of education in Alaska.

    • Dehumanization and higher rates of suicide.

    • Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis today.

    • The worst way to do cultural education.

    • Language revitalization in Alaska.

  • Importance of languages and tourism. 1:17:01

    • Languages are a reflection of one's own culture.

    • Schools in Alaska are influential.

    • Sheldon Jackson and his work with eco-tourists.

    • What the next generation of kids should know.

    • What it means to be Native in Alaska.

    • The legacy of Alaska is greatness.

Episode 23: History of Boarding Schools in Alaska transcript available here:

Episode 23- Boarding Schools in AK (1)_otter_ai
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