ikkuak, pl. ikkua that one over there,
not moving, lengthy nor expansive
pronoun: iktuma, dual ikkuak, pl. ikkua
of that one over there, visible, and not moving,
lengthy nor expansive
in locative: iktumani, dual ikkufafni,
pl. ikkunani located with/in/at that one
over there, visible, and not moving, lengthy nor expansive
in ablative: iktumaffa,
from that one
over there, visible, and not moving, lengthy nor expansive
in terminalis: iktumufa,
to that one over there, visible, and not moving,
lengthy nor expansive
in modalis: iktumifa,
with/of that one over there, visible, and not
moving, lengthy nor expansive
in vialis: iktumuuna, dual ikkufnufna,
pl. ikkunuuna via that one over there,
visible, and not moving, lengthy nor expansive
in similaris: iktumatun, dual ikkufnaktun,
pl. ikkunatitun like that one over there,
visible, and not moving, lengthy nor expansive
ikka over there, visible and restricted in
in locative: ikani located over there, visible
and restricted area
in ablative: ikaffa
from over there, visible and restricted in area
in terminalis: ikufa.
to over there, visible and restricted in area
in vialis: ikuuna via over there, visible and
restricted in area
as a Reflection
of Perceptions and Intellectual History
attribute of Ieupiaq
culture evident in the language and literature is the fact
that the roles of women and men were not stratified. The
type of role undertaken depended on a persons ability
and capability. One of the legends told by an outstanding
historian, Uqumailaq, runs as follows:
there lived a large number of people and their chief along
a river in the interior. Their chief had a daughter. She
did not mature slowly. She had a bow and arrow as she grew
up. She hunted like a man using the bow and arrow. When
she saw a wolf she would stalk it and would eventually kill
it with her how and arrow. She did likewise with wolverine.
Although she was a woman she was a skillful hunter. (Uqumailaq,
circa 1961, from Suvlu Tape collection of Ieupiaq
stories currently being transcribed and translated by the
as hunter is not a common theme in the oral literature,
but the presence of such themes indicate that the society
of the ancestors was an egalitarian one. In fact, one cheerful
little Ieupiaq elder-woman
told the author of the present paper that she had belonged
to a whaling crew, and that the only reason she had never
struck a whale was because she was so tiny. She laughed
and said that she did not have the strength to strike the
whale with sufficient force. From the legends and more recent
accounts, we learn that men and women had equal status and
that a person was limited only by his or her abilities.
equality of roles for men and women is reflected in the
Ieupiaq and Yupik languages.
The words for woman agnaq and for man afun
cannot be used to designate humanity. The Ieupiaq
and Yupik languages have a word inuk or yuk, respectively,
which refers to a human being without specifying gender,
and the same word refers to humanity.
concept of focusing on the whole situation with one or many
participants is reflected in the Ieupiaq
language. Take for instance the English sentence, there
are squirrels, and the Ieupiaq
sentence siksriqaqtuq. One is a translation of the
other. In English the focus is on the individual squirrels,
whereas in Ieupiaq
the focus is on the one situation. This focus is clearly
shown by the number of the verb. Are in English
is plural while tuq in Ieupiaq
is singular. The interdependence of actors regardless of
number in a given situation is emphasized. An individual
does not stand alone.
Christian religion has been embraced strongly by many Ieupiat
and Yupiks. This is not difficult to understand because
the Ieupiat and Yupiks
are very spiritual people. Secondly, the Christian concepts
of resurrection and a persons ability to perform miracles,
and the story of creation pertaining to a period of darkness
and then of light, were already part of the spiritual beliefs
and realities of the traditional system of beliefs.
Christianity, resurrection occurred in three days, whereas
in the Ieupiaq religion
resurrection had to occur within four or five days of death,
depending on the sex of the person involved.
some concepts such as resurrection and the focus on an individual
figure who performs miracles are common to both religions,
there are some differences with respect to the creation
to the Ieupiat, Long
before day and night had been created, or the first man
made his appearance, there lived an old woman, indeed very
old, for the tradition of her having had a beginning, if
there ever was such a one, had been lost. We must bear in
mind that during the first stage of the world everything
remained young and fresh; nothing grew old. The old woman
was like a young girl in her appearance and feelings, and
being the only inhabitant of the earth, naturally felt very
lonesome and wished for a companion. She was one time chewing
pooya (burnt seal oil residue) when the thought
arose in her mind that it would be pleasant to have an image
to play with, so, taking her pooya , she fashioned
a man, then by way of ornamentation placed a ravens
beak on his forehead. She was delighted with her success
in making such a lovely image and on lying down to sleep
placed it near her side. On awakening her joy was great,
for the image had come to life and there before her was
the first man (Driggs, 1905).
legend tells of the tulufiksraq,
the Raven-Spirit who is also a man. He is credited with
having secured land and light for humanity. According to
Ieupiaq legend there
was a period of darkness before there was light. This was
the time when humans did not age. The Raven-Spirit tulufiksraq
secured the land and the source of light from an old
man and his wife and daughter. Light appeared only after
the Raven-Spirit stole the source of light from them. As
he was fleeing, the Raven-Spirit dropped the source of light
which then exploded and dispersed units of light throughout
concept is reinforced by the analysis of the Ieupiaq
word for sun siqiniq. The stem of siqiniq is
siqi which means to splatter, to splash outwards,
and the ending of the word niq indicates the result
or end-product of an activity. So, the Ieupiaq
word for sun siqiniq and the legend of the Raven-Spirit
accidently dropping the source of light which then exploded
supports the concept of the big-bang theory of the origin
of the universe in which the sun is only one of many.
Ieupiaq word for star
uvlugiaq indicates that light travels from the star,
that there is a path that the light from the star takes
to arrive on earth. The stem of the Ieupiaq
word uvlugiaq is uvluq which means daylight.
The suffix iaq indicates a pathway or trajectory
that permits movement from one point to another.
language and culture of a people are a source of pride and
identity, and the oral literature of the ancestors sends
messages based on their experiences and their interpretations
with Other Cultures
first white men that the Inuit encountered were explorers
and whalers who did not always seek to change the lifestyles
of the indigenous peoples that they met in their travels.
Those explorers who spent lengthy periods of time with the
Ieupiat or Yupiks learned
their language in order to communicate with them.
they introduced diseases such as German measles, syphilis,
chicken pox and influenza which killed many Ieupiat
and Yupiks. The death toll was particularly high among the
Ieupiat because the
people lived close to each other along the coast. The Yupiks
were widely scattered along the rivers and were therefore
less accessible to the explorers and their diseases (Vanstone,
Russian explorers traded with the Yupiks who, in turn, traded
with the Ieupiat. From
the Yupiks, the Ieupiat
obtained iron buckets, knives and tobacco. One bucket traded
for two wolverine skins (Ahmaogak and Webster, 1968).
second wave of white men to reach the Yupiks and Ieupiat
were Christian missionaries. They were different. They were
relentless in their self-righteousness, and considered it
their divinely-inspired obligation to disrupt the social,
educational and religious activities of the Yupiks and the
Ieupiat. The first
missionaries in northern Alaska were often medical doctors
or school teachers or both and had to contend with the shamans.
early missionaries learned the Ieupiaq
or Yupik languages in order to translate Christian hymns,
scriptures and the catechism into them. Ieupiaq
and Yupik could be spoken in churches but not in schools.
The language policy for the schools at the turn of the century
under the direction of a Presbyterian missionary, Sheldon
Jackson, the first Commissioner of Education for Alaska
from 1885 to 1908 (Krauss, 1980), is summed up in this quotation
from the North Star, Sitka 1888:
Board of Home Missions has informed us that government contracts
for educating Indian pupils provide for the ordinary branches
of an English education to be taught, and that no books
in any Indian language shall be used, or instruction given
in that language to Indian pupils. The letter states that
this rule will be strictly enforced in all government Indian
schools. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs urges, and very
forcibly too, that instruction in their vernacular is not
only of no use to them but is detrimental to their speedy
education and civilization. It is now two years and more
since the use of the Indian dialects was first prohibited
in the training school here. All instruction is given in
English. Pupils are required to speak and write English
exclusively; and the results are tenfold more satisfactory
than when they were permitted to converse in unknown tongues.
in 1890, the following was issued by the Department of the
children shall be taught in the English language, reading,
writing, arithmetic, geography, oral history, physiology,
and temperance hygiene. No text-books printed in a foreign
language shall be allowed. Special efforts shall be put
forth to train the pupils in the use of the English language.
began the destruction of the indigenous languages of Alaska.
The Native peoples of Alaska were taught that their languages
were not important, their religion was bad and that they
should become like the white man as quickly as possible.
missionaries had a relatively easy task of assembling followers
for their churches in northern Alaska. The diseases brought
by the explorers and Yankee whalers wrought havoc in many
families. The Ieupiat
had no immunity to such diseases. Consequently many died,
including many heads of households. The father and usually
the eldest son, although stricken, had to go out and procure
food for the family. Even if they fell ill they could not
rest and recuperate. Their state would grow worse and they
would die. Consequently, the widows and their children had
no one to turn to except the white traders who had established
themselves along the Arctic coast. That was the origin of
the paternalistic relationship between Alaska s First
People and the white man.
there was some resistance to the changes imposed on them
by missionaries, doctors and teachers, the majority of Ieupiat
and Yupiks followed the rules that were being laid down.
On the insistence of teachers and school officials, many
Ieupiaq and Yupik parents,
although not able to communicate effectively in English,
began trying to speak English to their children, so that
children spoke English at home as well as in school. Educators
persuaded the parents that education was essential for their
children to succeed in the changing world. But opportunities
for education were limited in traditional villages. It was
necessary for children to leave their home communities to
attend boarding high schools in distant parts of Alaska
or even the southern states. At this crucial time in their
lives, adolescents were removed from their homes, culture
and the traditions of their people. Often a child would
leave the community in the fall; a young adult would return
in spring, but without any parental assistance in this most
difficult transition of life. At a time when young adults
should be learning the skills, tools and traditions of their
culture, they were learning to make napkin holders and aprons
in distant, government schools.
late Eben Hopson, the first mayor of the North Slope Borough
in northern Alaska, described Alaskas indigenous peoples
experience of the western educational system.
years ago, when we were persuaded to send our children to
western educational institutions, we began to lose control
over the education of our youth. Many of our people believed
that formal educational systems would help us acquire the
scientific knowledge of the western world. However, it was
more than technological knowledge that the educators wished
to impart. The educational policy was to attempt to assimilate
us into the American mainstream at the expense of our culture.
The schools were committed to teaching us to forget our
language and Ieupiaq
heritage. This outrageous treatment and the exiling of our
youth to school in foreign environments were to remain as
common practices of the educational system.
Inupiaq and Yupik Situation Today
pace of development in the Alaskan north is fast. The changes
that have occurred in the lifetimes of our elders almost
defy belief. Most of the time there is no time to react,
no time for comprehensive planning. Because change has occurred
so suddenly, there are many things which should have changed
that have remained the same under a different name. And
there are changes that have been so radical and destructive
that we have not begun to emerge from their consequences.
Western societal systems and norms, however well-intentioned,
have undermined and displaced the traditional societal systems
that supported our people for thousands of years. The disruptive
effects of rapid social and cultural change have wrought
havoc on Alaskan Native families and communities. This is
reflected in a depressing array of social problems including
a high suicide rate among young Alaskan Natives, a high
incidence of alcohol and drug abuse, the fetal alcohol syndrome,
the breakdown of the extended family and clan system, loss
of children to the welfare system, loss of language, lack
of transmission of cultural knowledge and values, apathy,
depression, low academic achievement and high drop-out rate,
transitional problems between village and cities and the
dilemma of integrating traditional and non-traditional economic
systems (subsistence versus cash-based lifestyle).
Alaska became a State in 1959, it was allowed to select
federal lands within Alaska to aid it in its economic development.
Alaska Native leaders, seeing that their traditional lands
were being claimed by the State of Alaska, began insisting
on a settlement of land claims of the Alaska Natives from
the United States Government. In 1966, the U.S. Secretary
of the Interior froze further State land selections, pending
resolution of Alaska Native land claims.
United States Government had long known that the North Slope
of Alaska has large reserves of oil. The Government laid
claim to much of northern Alaska as a petroleum reserve,
in the name of national defense; however, the shortage of
oil in the world market led the U.S. to encourage the oil
companies to explore for oil in Alaska. An enormous oilfield
was found at Prudhoe Bay in 1968.
discovery of the Prudhoe Bay oilfield made the North Slope
very attractive to the State and Federal Governments and
private industry. Development of the oilfield would interfere
directly with traditional uses of the land, so resolution
of the Native land claims was necessary. The Alaska Native
Claims Settlement Act became law on 18 December 1971, clearing
the way for construction of facilities to extract the oil
from the ground and market it. This Act affected all the
Native people of Alaska, not just those in the oil-rich
lands of the north.
development has transformed the lives of Alaskan Inuit in
a number of ways. The direct influence is surprisingly small.
While some Native people are employed in the oil industry,
the great majority of workers are migrants from other parts
of Alaska or other States. However, the Native Claims Settlement
Act, passed to allow oil development to proceed, has affected
the lives of all Alaskan Natives. The Act provides for the
establishment of Regional and Local corporations to manage
and invest the land and money given to the Native communities
in exchange for the subsurface rights to natural resources
on traditional native lands. Alaskan Natives are shareholders
in their Regional and Local corporations. For the first
time Alaskan Natives are a significant economic force. In
addition, a local government, the North Slope Borough, was
established in Arctic Alaska, with powers of taxation of
property in the oilfields. The revenues support the provision
of a wide variety of services to the residents of the Borough,
who are mainly Ieupiat.
As one example, the North Slope Borough has established
and funded a Commission on History, Language and Culture
to support and encourage activities to preserve, foster
and promote the traditional language and culture of the
Ieupiat. The Commission
was instrumental in revitalizing the Messenger Feast. The
North Slope Borough, in cooperation with the State of Alaska,
has constructed regional high schools in all the villages
of the North Slope, so that it is no longer necessary for
young people to leave their homes to obtain secondary education.
Since the school curriculum is, to a significant extent,
under the control of a Borough School Board, it is responsive
to community desires as never before.
Native Languages and Education
100 years, Alaska s indigenous languages and cultures
have faced a steady onslaught of institutional discrimination
which called for their eradication and replacement by the
English language and cultural norms. The very core of a
young childs identity, the language and culture of
the parents, was undermined in the schools. Needless to
say, this policy has been extremely detrimental to the indigenous
groups in Alaska. Attitudes of rejection or ambivalence
about the worth of ones language and culture have
developed and are, in varying degrees, still prevalent among
the adult population. These attitudes have played an important
role in the success of retention or maintenance programmes
for Alaska Native languages.
linguistic and cultural heritage of Alaska Native societies
is threatened with extinction. This looming loss is distressing
to many members of the Alaska Native community. The situation
affects the education of the children who need to feel secure
and comfortable in a schooling process in order to reach
their potential of academic achievement.
and bicultural education in Alaska began with the adoption
of a Bill in 1972 by the Alaska State Legislature declaring
that ... a school which is attended by at least 15
pupils whose primary language is other than English shall
have at least one teacher who is fluent in the native language
of the area where the school is located. Written and other
educational materials, when language is a factor, shall
be presented in the language native to the area (State
of Alaska, Seventh Legislature, Second Session, 1972).
the same session another piece of legislation was passed
directing the University of Alaska to establish an Alaska
Native Language Center in order to: (i) study native languages
of Alaska; (ii) develop literacy materials; (iii) assist
in the translation of important documents; (iv) provide
for the development and dissemination of Alaska Native literature,
and (v) train Alaska Native language speakers to work as
teachers and aides in bilingual classrooms.
1975, an Alaska State statute was enacted directing all
school boards to... provide a bilingual-bicultural
education programme for each school . . .which is attended
by at least 8 pupils of limited English-speaking ability
and whose primary language is other than English.
The new language in the statute addressed all languages
other than English, and thus expanded bilingualism equally
to immigrant languages.
ultimate aim of all bilingual/bicultural programmes in Alaska
is to promote English language proficiency. Ieupiaq
and Yupik language and culture programmes are seen as contributing
to the enhancement of academic achievement which is measured
in the English language. Depending on the assessment of
the schoolchildrens language proficiency, each district
designs a language development educational programme which
best meets its needs. In regions where children still speak
their Native language, the language of instruction from
Kindergarten to Fourth Grade is usually in that language.
After Fourth Grade, instruction in the Native language is
usually reduced, for various reasons including shortage
of bilingual teachers, lack of curricular materials and,
most importantly, lack of commitment by the community and
school to promote the growth and enrichment of the Alaska
Native language per se.
the 1987-8 school year, the Alaska Department of Education,
through the Office of the Commissioner, and in collaboration
with members of the Alaska Native community, initiated a
process to establish an Alaska Native Language Policy for
schools in Alaska. The proposed policy acknowledges that
Alaskas indigenous languages are unique and essential
elements of Alaskas heritage, and thus distinct from
immigrant languages. It recognizes that although some children
learn their Native language in the home and community, many
Alaska Native children do not have the opportunity to learn
their heritage languages in this way. The proposed policy
further states that schools have a responsibility to teach
and use as the medium of instruction the Alaska Native language
of the local community to the extent desired by the parents
of that community.
is the first attempt by the educational system to establish
a process whereby Alaskan Natives can make decisions concerning
their heritage languages. The revitalization of Alaska Native
languages will occur when Alaska Natives celebrate themselves
and their heritage, and insist on being active participants
in the education of their children in the home, community
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of Alaska, Fairbanks.
E. D. 1985. Bilingual-Bicultura1 Education in Alaska;
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J.S. 1979. Eskimo School on the Andreafsky. Praeger
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M.E. 1980. Alaska Native Languages: Past, Present and Future.
Alaska Native Language Center Research Papers, No. 4.
R.F. 1959. The North Alaskan Eskimo: A Study in Ecology
and Society. Smithsonian Institution Press, City of
B. 1986. Language and Education in Multilingual Settings.
College-Hill Press, San Diego, California.
Clair, R.; Leap, W. 1982. Language Renewal among American
Indian Tribes: Issues, Problems and Prospectus. National
Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.
G. (ed.). 1983. Education in Alaskas Past.
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