Clearinghouse for Clinical Rotations

Cross cultural communication in Alaska


Communication Across Cultures  by Casie Williams (revised March, 2002)
Casie Williams describes cultural values, time orientation, communication patterns and language (including body language), the role of Elders in a village, and contemporary health problems as it relates to Alaska Native cultures. For a PDF version of this article, go to the introductory page for clinical rotations on this website.

CultureCard: A Guide to Build Cultural Awareness-American Indian and Alaska Native produced by SAMHSA
According to the SAMHSA website, this guide is intended to serve as a general briefing to enhance cultural competence while providing services to American Indian/Alaska Native communities. (Cultural competence is defined as the ability to function effectively in the context of cultural differences.)


Another Culture/Another World by Father Michael Oleksa should be required reading….The book is not an educational or scholarly tome one has to wade through, rather it is a relatively easy read filled with keen insight into different Alaskan cultures. It is a book that would have benefited people thirty years ago and will benefit people thirty years from now.

Note: This book can be purchased from the Alaska Initiative for Community Engagement.


Communicating Across Cultures with Father Michael Oleksa (four-part video series)
Russian Orthodox priest, scholar, peace-maker and raconteur, Father Michael Oleksa combines energy with twenty-five years personal experience listening to the traditional voices of Alaskan Natives to host this dynamic and sensitive series.This series explores how to communicate across the frontiers of race, religion, culture, sex, age and background.  Each tape is 56 minutes long. A description of each video follows:

Our World - The Global Literate Culture: The first program focuses on the basic experience of and assumptions about, reality that dominate modern western society.Characterizing the dominant culture of the world as Global-Literate, Father Michael describes the evolution of this view of the World, with its exclusively chronological sense of time, from its origins in the ancient Middle East.

The Old Wisdom - Traditional Cultures: The second program describes an alternative view of life, of reality derived from the more ancient sense of time and of humanity inspired by traditional, non-literate cultures of the World. How did these cultures answer the questions: Who are we? Where do we fit in the cosmic scheme of things? How do we appropriately relate to each other and the world around us?

The Clash of Worlds:The third program describes the tragic clash between the Global-Literate and the Traditional cultures of the world. Documenting the effects of massive enculturation, Father Michael asserts that tribal people must be allowed to become their own experts, to assume positions within their villages and regions, and to adapt whatever is useful from the modern world to their own needs and situation, without losing their positive identity.

The Universe of Communication: In the concluding program, the need to communicate assumes a new urgency. Father Michael describes why it is so difficult to communicate accurately and effectively and includes some guidelines for what to look for, as well as what to do about the inevitable miscommunications that are part of our daily lives.

For information about purchasing the Communicating Across Cultures video series, contact the Alaska Staff Development Network.

A Matter of Respect by Ellen Frankenstein
In this stereotype-breaking documentary about the meaning of tradition and change, people speak frankly about the challenges they face balancing their lives in two cultures. A young drummer and dance guides tourists through a museum, a silver carver/disc jockey talks about his love of both rock and roll and traditional carving, and a Tlingit elder teaches children at a summer fish camp. A Matter of Respect portrays a diverse group of people expressing their culture and identity and honoring their ancestor’s way of life through teaching language, harvesting and preparing traditional foods, restoring community cemeteries and dancing, carving and weaving.

This DVD can be purchased from New Day Films.