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Molly Hootch and the

Tobeluk Consent Decree

Delilah Hodge
Educ 506
The Lower Kuskokwim delta
is in the south west corner of
My school district covers 21
villages and the hub city of

Each site is provides students

with a K-12 education
but this has not always been the case
Traditionally in
Yup’ik culture,
the qasgiq
(men’s house)
was the social
and ceremonial
center of village

Young men received an essential

part of their education as they
listened to and observed the older
men talking and carving tools,
weapons, bowls, kayaks, and
elaborate ceremonial equipment.
The remainder
of their training
was hands-on as
they helped the
men hunt, fish,
and store meat
for the winter.
In 1885, five Moravian
missionaries started a
school in Bethel in
order to convert
children to Christianity

The children were now spending the

majority of the day being taught by people
who viewed the world in a very different
way and had values that were
contradictory to their traditional way of
In 1921 the Bureau of Indian Affairs extended
its services to more remote sections of the
Alaskan Territory and established elementary
schools in many of the villages.

They provided a rudimentary K

through 8th grade education.
Students who
graduated from the
village schools in the
Lower Kuskokwim
Delta and wanted to
pursue a high school
diploma had three

Anchorage high school @ 1962

One option was to move to a larger urban

area such as Bethel or Anchorage, and live
with a host family while attending a
territory-operated high school.
Beltz School

An alternative to that was attending one of the

three boarding schools in the state of Alaska.
Mt. Edgecumbe, founded in 1947, was a BIA
run high school in Sitka; St. Mary’s, a Jesuit
mission school in the city of St. Mary’s, or the
William E. Beltz School in Nome
Mt Edgecumbe
Once the Alaskan
boarding schools reached
full capacity or if students
preferred leaving the
state, they could attend

Chemawa Indian
School, Salem, OR


Chilocco Indian School,

Chilocco, Oklahoma
All three options sent students hundreds
of miles away from their homes

Drop out rates for these programs were HIGH. Almost

25 percent of the students left during their freshman
year and others left during the summer. Only 46
percent of those who chose to go made it through the
first two years of any boarding program.
In 1972, a 16-year-old girl named Molly Hootch was
the first to sign a petition asking for the creating of
high schools in her Yukon River village of Emmonak
and two others in the Lower Kuskokwim Delta

Molly began high school with a host family in

Anchorage, four hundred miles away from her
village. “In her boarding home she was treated as
an unpaid servant and babysitter. On the school bus
and at school, she was teased and picked on
because of who she was and where she came from.”
(Cooke, 2004, p.3) After two years Molly was
through. She dropped out of school and returned to
her village.

Alaska Superior court ruled that local high schools were not required
In 1975 another suit was brought against the State of Alaska
headed by a different girl’s name from the Lower
Kuskokwim Delta.

Anna Tobeluk, 18 years old

from the 400-person village
of Nunapitchuk, wanted to
continue school, but was
The case of Tobeluk v.
unable to leave her village.
Lind claimed the state,
“was discriminating
against Native kids in
rural villages by failing
to provide them with
local schools.”

After hearing the arguments, the state proposed a settlement. The Tobeluk
Consent Decree was signed in October 1976 and 105 villages across Alaska
received local high schools.
I think the Molly Hootch case/Tobeluk
Consent decree was the greatest thing
that ever happened to rural Alaskan

It improved educational
opportunities for students in the
villages of the Lower
Kuskokwim Delta and gave
everyone access to a high
school diploma.

Tobeluk Memorial School

The high school drop out rate for the Lower
Kuskokwim Delta has gone from somewhere
around 85% during the BIA/Boarding school
era to 11% in 2005.

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