“Bringing What’s on the Inside Out”: Arts-based Cancer Education with Alaska Native Peoples





Alaska Native peoples have a strong tradition of learning and passing knowledge through stories, drummings, songs, and dances. This study explored the use of expressive arts as a culturally respectful pathway for cancer education. The expressive arts of moving, drawing, and sculpting were woven into seven cancer education workshops during September and October 2009, in which 98 (85%) participants completed a written evaluation. The majority (91%) of workshop participants were female. By ethnicity, 46% were Alaska Native, 13% American Indian, 33% Caucasian, and 2% Hispanic. As described by participants on written post-cancer-education evaluations, the use of expressive arts awakened possibilities, inspired creativity, and expanded perspectives; brought learners together; helped participants talk about cancer; supported holistic ways of knowing and remembering; empowered wellness ways and self-care; and energized learning with fun, laughter, and play. Examples of ways the expressive arts were integrated into cancer education curriculum and participant comments are shared in this article. The expressive arts nurtured heart, head, and body ways of knowing to provide culturally relevant, learner-centred cancer education which served as a catalyst for cancer conversations and deeper understandings.

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