Lesson Plans

Textual Analysis and Discussion: Alaska Native Women Organize for Justice

In this Jan. 14, 2019 photo, Clarice "Bun" Hardy stands on the beach with her dog, Marley, in the Native Village of Shaktoolik, Alaska. Hardy, a former 911 dispatcher for the Nome Police Department, says she moved back to her village after a sexual assault left her feeling unsafe in Nome. Image by Wong Maye-E. United States, 2019.

In this Jan. 14, 2019 photo, Clarice "Bun" Hardy stands on the beach with her dog, Marley, in the Native Village of Shaktoolik, Alaska. Hardy, a former 911 dispatcher for the Nome Police Department, says she moved back to her village after a sexual assault left her feeling unsafe in Nome. Image by Wong Maye-E. United States, 2019.

Objectives:

Students will be able to… 

  • Determine central ideas of news stories recounting sexual assault survivors’ pursuit of justice and analyze those ideas' development over the course of the texts
  • Cite evidence to support analyses of reporting covering issues affecting Native women in Alaska
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the reporting including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings

Warm-up:

1. Sunday, March 8, 2020 was International Women’s Day, and the theme for 2020 is “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.” Refer to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights to get started in thinking about what rights are supposed to be guaranteed to all people.

2. As a class, discuss:

  1. What are some rights that certain women around the world still do not enjoy?
  2. Think about what you see in the media or encounter in your daily life—what are some ways that people are mobilizing for women’s rights today? 
  3. One example is the #MeToo movement which began in 2017. What do you know about this movement? What are its aims?
    • What do stories associated with this movement tend to have in common?
    • What women’s rights are people working toward through this movement?

Introducing the Lesson:

Content warning: This lesson discusses and analyzes texts centered on sexual assault. It features the voices and stories of survivors.

This lesson guides students in text analysis of two articles from “Nowhere to Turn,” a Pulitzer Center-supported reporting project which tells the stories of Alaska Native women and girls, who suffer high rates of sexual violence. The stories focus on Alaska’s Bering Strait region, where the city of Nome serves as a regional hub for dozens of smaller villages. Over half of Nome’s residents are Alaska Native, largely of Inupiaq and Yup’ik heritage, and and its police department has been accused of “indifference and incompetence” when faced with widespread allegations of sexual assault disproportionately affecting the Native community.

In the first article, students follow survivor Clarice “Bun” Hardy as she recounts her quest for justice to no avail. In the second article, students explore how survivors have come together with their community to force local officials to realize their right to justice.

Students can read both articles consecutively, or can divide into two groups to read and each group can provide an article summary to their classmates. 

Some useful vocabulary for this lesson: 

Introducing the Resources:

Individually or in pairs, read “For Years, Nome Sexual Assault Reports Go Unanswered” by Victoria McKenzie. Respond to the following questions as you read, and then share your answers with the rest of your class.

  1. What imagery or details does McKenzie use to convey that Hardy feels more at home in Shaktoolik?
  2. Why doesn’t Hardy feel safe in Nome?
  3. Hardy states that she feels “betrayed.” What do you think she means?
  4. How does the article show that each of the following groups has betrayed Hardy?
    • The criminal justice system
    • Hardy’s work colleagues
    • Her union
    • Her close friends?

Individually, or in pairs, read “‘We Are All We Have’: Nome Sexual Assault Victims Find Their Collective Strength” by Victoria McKenzie. Respond to the following questions as you read, and then share your answers with the rest of your class. 

  1. What pattern did Ellanna and the other women discover when they began sharing their experiences?
  2. According to Pungowiyi, why is it that “sexual assault cases are more likely to reach a dead end if the victim was Native”?
  3. Why did the advocacy group decide to go public with their work? 
  4. What were the main differences between the resolution calling for a review of police department conduct drafted by the advocacy group and the one drafted by the city?
  5. What changes to the police department have been made since the advocacy group began their work?

Discussion:

As a class, discuss:

  1. Susie, an Alaska Native woman who is a survivor of sexual assault, did not want her last name published in this reporting project. What are the advantages of anonymity for Susie? What are the disadvantages?
  2. The first time Ellanna is quoted in the project, she says “I’m not just a...troublemaker.”
    • What are the connotations of the word “troublemaker”?
    • Do you think that her actions and advocacy make her a troublemaker? Why or why not?
  3. The city council hearing the women’s grievances is “all-male, non-Native.”
    • Nome’s population is roughly half Native. What historical factors does the reporting suggest might explain why the Native population is under-represented in local government?
    • What effects might the city council’s composition have on the advocacy group’s work, and why?
  4. Why might the lack of Native people and women on the city council make the advocacy group’s work more difficult to accomplish?
  5. The article ends with a quote from Ellanna: “We’re all we have.”
    • What does she mean by this?
    • What role did community bonds play in the women’s advocacy?
  6. In what ways has the advocacy group been successful? What is still left to accomplish? 
  7. How are the stories of women like Ellanna and Hardy similar to other stories you’ve heard of associated with the #MeToo movement? How are they different?

Extension Activities:

Option 1: This lesson explored how communities can come together and organize for women’s rights long denied by authority figures. Research how people are organizing for their rights in your community. Or, if you prefer, choose a women’s rights issue and research how women and their allies in a context of your choice are fighting to realize it. Here is a resource to get you started. 

As you’re researching, consider the following:

  • What women’s right is in question?
  • Who are some of the people or groups working to advance this right, and what are they doing?
  • What comparisons can you draw between the activism around the women’s right you researched and what you learned about the women’s advocacy group in Nome? 
  • Having done your research, write a paper, make a presentation to your classmates, or write a letter to a local representative encouraging them to take action to help realize this right.

Option 2: Use this reporting to create original poetry as a way to connect current events to your local and personal context and make your voice heard. The Pulitzer Center hosts an annual student poetry contest, Fighting Words, and offers cash prizes and publication of the winning poems on our website.

Writing a Fighting Words poem involves highlighting phrases in the reporting that jump out as important, interesting or beautiful—and that capture the feeling of the story—to create a cento or found poem. For detailed instructions and contest guidelines, click here.

Educator Notes: 

Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.2

Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.1

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term or terms over the course of a text.

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