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Inupiat Ilitqusiat


The Graphics Communication class of Kiana High School is made up of seventeen students in grades nine through twelve. Traditionally, the students in this class write, edit and produce Stubby Tales, the school's weekly newsletter. This semester, the students decided to suspend publication in order to focus their efforts on learning about their community, their elders, and their Inupiat culture.

The seventeen students, ranging in age from 14 to 18, interviewed twelve people, ranging in age from their mid-30s to their late 70s. Ten of the interviewees were from Kiana and two were from Kotzebue. They were chosen by the students because they are respected members of their communities, who the students felt would be able to teach them about their culture. The students wanted to find out about their elders’ beliefs, perspectives, and values, and they designed a set of questions accordingly.

The students initially wanted to find out who officially initiated, established, and recorded the Inupiat Ilitqusiat. To answer this question they went through an extensive process of: researching, writing letters, calling agencies and libraries, and talking to their elders. In the interviews with their elders, the students asked questions primarily about the origins of the values, the Spirit Movement of the `80s, family roles, knowledge of family tree, and domestic skills.

Most of the interviews were videotaped, but a couple were audiotaped, and two interviewees chose to answer the questions in writing because they live in Kotzebue. The taped interviews were then transcribed by the students and in some instances the students summarized the interviews. Following is part one of this project and contains the result of those efforts.

In addition, some of the high-school students, as well as seventh- and eighth-graders, wrote poems and essays about values, family trees, and their genealogies.

Those efforts are compiled in part two of this project.


When were you born?

April 28, 1926, [at the] old village site in Kiana (after my father died).

How many children do you have?

Four of my own children and six adopted, so 10 all together.

How did you feel about moving to the new village site?

There were good reasons for moving: [The old village] was an isolated place, and located on the side of the hill; also children had to go far to go to school. The church and store were located at the new site.

What was your fondest childhood memory?

Living with brothers and sisters, [my] mother was real good [to us]. [We] didn't have too much to start with. Just the family and traditional foods.

What kind of games did you like to play when you were young?

Games were different from games that are played today. [We couldn’t buy] good sleds from the store. Handmade skis - like sleds - were used to slide down hills. Sliding and football were main enjoyable pastimes when [we were] not in school. [We got a] lot of exercise, too.

What was your favorite Inupiaq story when you were little?

Mom told us stories from her ancestors’ lives - how they once lived, way back. Also [about] people who lived before her mother and father [were alive]; all the stories of life before white people came; stories about times fishing in the camp or camping out every summer; trying to get enough food for dog teams, enough fish to dry and save for the whole winter. [It was a] tough life, but it was enjoyable during the times when mother told stories.

Do you remember any of the stories?

[I remember elders] talking about Maniilaq and what he has prophesied. [My] mom was named after Maniilaq. Dad has mother and mother has a brother [who is a namesake). Maniilaq prophesied about a big ship flying through the air - [he was] talking about airplanes. Also, [he said] the warm countries would become cold (and vice versa). He also mentioned the Ilitqusiat - many people [would come] from around the bend. Then the white people came during the gold rush. He said they'd be here.

When was the first time you saw an airplane? Do you remember?

When I was William’s age [his grandson, who is about 4 or 5 years old) I saw them. They manufactured them long time before I was born, so they were around. [They] came to Alaska a long time ago. They were already here [when I was born]. One of the first planes were called swallows - they were small planes with a bubble on top. People had all kinds of experiences when they saw a plane for the first time. They were afraid of them. One story is about Arthur Field and his grandma Molly (Baramon)[sic - correction: Berryman], who always took care of him. Once a plane flew over, and Molly wouldn't let him go out. She said, "The plane might fall on you." [People had] all kinds of experiences. Planes were built differently; with [different] ways to start them and take care of them. [There was] no electricity back then. [They had to use a] big fire pot to heat up the planes.

What were some of your family traditions that you used to do but don't do now?

Ever since I can remember, I heard mainly of people starving - being short of food every year. We were always told to try and catch fish while we can and put it away - to save most of it for the winter. You never know what winter will bring. People always tell of others dying out there while hunting. It's different today. Whenever [I am] hungry [I] just go out to the store and buy food.

Who took you on hunting trips when you were young?

Mother usually took [us] out with a boat to hunt muskrats and ducks during spring time. [We had] no motor or snowmachine - [we] had to row or pull the boat along. [My brothers and I] were very young. [We had] no need for gas. [We] worked hard rowing and pulling nets when we're out seining. Everything was done manually when I was a young boy - walk, pull, push - no help from machines. Lot's of exercise. [We had to] make all kinds of plans. When [we went] out to hunt with dogs, [we had] to plan what [we were] going to take depending on how far [we were] going to go, how far the caribou may be - how many fish to take along according to how many days [we would] be out.

What kinds of things did you bring with you on hunting trips?

It all depend[ed] on what [we were] going to hunt. Or what [we were] going to do. Grandfather (in Noorvik, from dad's side - [who is] also [Delores’s] great-grandfather; we're relatives through her mom's side) had tools; he had a pile of tools made to do the job - just for setting muskrat traps. [He had] a pile of tools only for hunting muskrats; we shoot them with guns. [I have] seen guns around ever since I was young. I was born a little late - not before guns were made. There were a few outboard motors around, too. Not too many, though.

Do you have any advice for the younger generation? A lot of them are starting to lose the language, and you were talking about that during the Thanksgiving Dinner up at the school. Do you have any advice for the youth?

You mean the time when I talked at the school?

Yes, you mentioned that you feel like a lot of the younger generations are starting to forget the language. Do you think that there's anything that can be done about that so that the culture and the language can still be saved? Any suggestions or opinions?

I talked about [how] the Inupiaq language will disappear; nobody will speak it any more after we are gone. They won't be [able] to speak it. Little girls from Viola Barr's class asked a question that {I was] supposed to answer. It was: "How come our mom and dad never even talk Eskimo to us?" Now the only thing I'll answer to that is "because your mom and dad were not even interested in learning that language. They never tried to learn. My children become mothers, but still they are not interested in learning the language. They are not trying to learn to speak the language to their children. "Because your mom and dad don't know how to speak Eskimo" is the answer. Then I told the students, "If you listen to Viola, the bilingual teacher, you go ahead and try to learn as much as you can and after that everything will come easier. Even learning from other people when you’re out in the village. I think I would say, "Try to learn that language because you will be the one that's responsible for losing it. If you lose it, then that's it. Because we'll be gone already. Nobody will talk to you anymore about the language. Maybe this young generation will be the one to lose it. I remember I was in Nome, they have a "Speaking the Inupiaq Language" [program] there. There will be a few people [who will be able to speak the language]. They were telling us about how they were speaking it since they were small. Young girls, two of them. They speak Eskimo and also write it. And the guy who was in charge of that group, sitting in front, he got up and said, "That's fine when you could speak that Eskimo language, from where you come from, fine. How about you out there? How many of you will understand what she is talking about?" Three of the other students got up. "And how many of you didn't understand?" Two of them. The commentator says, "Those students way up, they were half-breed boys and girls. "Okay, I'll tell you one thing, those three people, the young people who say they can understand what the two girls are talking about, those are the ones who will keep our language - run it and spread it out." And those two who don't understand will lose the language completely. They [the three] will save the language, but the two won't. That's one good example. Only way I could tell them is they should learn the language as hard as they can, to ask their mom and dad to speak it for them everyday, keep on bugging them to learn. I think it would be a good idea. One girl will ask me for an Inupiaq word of the day. Bobby Curtis' girl, Brooke, will ask on some days, "What's the meaning of this?" and I will explain it. She's learning it from me instead of her dad. Asking is good. Maybe tell the students to ask their mom and dad about the meaning of one word a day, at least. Another thing we should tell our children when they're in groups: If you want to learn, at least get a job like in NANA; you can try to learn both Inupiaq and (English) the white man’s language. That way they'll be able to understand all of this. I don't know if I’m answering your question.

Yes, this is great. Yes, it's real important for the students of today to learn the language and keep that for tomorrow. And we're interested in the AFN Confederation, the land acts. Because it’s very important for the people to keep the land.

Were you a part of the AFN committee or do you remember when that started?

It started quite a few years ago, I was working in the high school as a janitor and I wasn't really interested [in going] because I [didn’t want] to leave my job. Even a day, I didn't want to lose any work. So I never got into that AFN. They had it for quite a few years. Right now I am one of the planners. What they call aboriginal planning committee. Aboriginal is something to do with our native tongue, or traditional and cultural, all that speaks the meaning of it. You can find it in the dictionary. And I'm one of those people that's selected form this NANA group [whom] they send two or three times a year to speak about what they should be doing or what they should be talking about - as far as the keynote speakers [are concerned]; and all the youths and elders - they will have a chance to speak, too, as a group. My group will be speaking about what it's all about. More like counseling, and something to let them know what it is all the time. And the youths are supposed to work with them, and that way they will plan what to do in AFN. So it's really important. Youths will come from all over the state. It's statewide. They all have something to say about what they want to know and what they want: that the native tongue should be spoken more. And another thing [the youths] were talking about: [They] want more advice from the elders. One girl even cried about it, in front of the whole audience. What we know here, we're keeping it too much in ourselves, not spreading it out. That's a bad thing to do. If I have something in a written form, I could put the whole list down. I think that if Vera and some others would give me some kind of a written form thing, - if all the students want to hear about it, if we could make plans that way - if we could put it in a written form - questions or [ask teachers to] please explain this in front of the students - that's the best thing to do now I think. Maybe sometime there'll be some doings in the high school that includes everyone - games maybe. Before they start, someone will say, "Now what's all this about Eskimo life?" and stuff like that. With the elders’ help I think we could better reach out to them. Like that time during Thanksgiving Day or Thanksgiving lunch in school. I wasn't even thinking to [ get up in front and] speak, but I finally decided that, being an elder, I thought I would give them advice.

We appreciate it, Thank you.

Because I have problems, too, in the school. My children, two or three of them, already have problems, problems every day. But we're working on it. The main thing is not giving in. Take it as the one, I'm the boss. Good thing I know now, ever since I [visited the jail in] Nome. I was talking to inmates, talking about counseling - traditional counseling and stuff like that. I mean, I think I'm taking off on a different course.

Well, this is plenty for now. We really appreciate it. Thank you for letting us come and talk to you.

I can talk forever, but I had [had to live my own]life when I was her age [referring to the high school student present]. When I turned 16, my mom died. My life changed ever since that time. It was up to me. That made it hard for me. In the end, it hurt, you know. I never did go in the jail in my life. Not that I'm real good on everything, but the only thing I will say, "Only time I visited the jail was to go talk to those people over there in jail." And I heard that we had a good comment from over there. They really talked about it in a good way. They liked what we said. They sure liked it.


Are you familiar with the Inupiaq values?


Were the values taught to you when you were young? If so how?

Yes, I learned from my parents and family. I remember learning the values in the second grade.

How important are the values to you?

Very important.

Which values are important and why?

All the values are important to me.

Do you believe the values help strengthen our culture? Why?

Yes, because it's important to learn from teachers and our elders; [young people should be taught] strong values, like to be respectful.

Do you believe the values are being taught today?


Do you think the young people of today are following the Inupiaq values today?

They are following them when they learn from the elders. The young people don't really know it as well as they should, though.

Do you have any advice for the youths of today?

Yes. Get advice from the elders and the teachers.

Can you speak Inupiaq fluently?


Do you read and write Inupiaq?

I can read short words, but not long ones.

How did you learn the Inupiaq language?

From my parents and family.

Do you think in Inupiaq?


Do you believe the young people of today know the language as well as they should?

No. They need to learn it and ask for help from elders. Some people aren’t learning like they should.

What should the young people do today to keep the language and culture alive?

If they want to learn, they can. It takes a lot of time and practice.

(Jane was asked the following questions about her Inupiaq mask making.)

How old were you when you learned how to make masks, and who taught you how to make them?

I was 30 years old when I learned how to make masks. The first time I made a mask it didn’t have a ruff. My father said, "It’s not good enough!" The second time, he said again, "It’s not good enough!" And the third time, I finally made it like how it should be done and my father said, "That’s how it should be." My brother can make masks, too. Only three people from my family can make masks: my brother, sister, and I. We all learned the same way.

What type of materials do you use for your masks?

We gather the materials from the land every year at hunting season. We use caribou hides for the mask and the hair from the legs for the eye lashes.

How much time does it take to make a mask?

It takes a few days to make one because there is a process involved and it takes a lot of time. Although, if I’m making an order for someone I will work all day and night to finish it.


Today is February 22,1996 and my name is Joy Kennedy. We are coming here, students from kiana, to interview and speak with Johnson and Inez Black. We have Martina Smith, Dolly Johnson, and Josie Morris working on this project. First Martina Smith is going to ask interview questions.

Martina: How did you two meet each other?

Inez: We always know each other for along time.

Martina: Since you were children?

Inez: No, when I come up here[moved to Kiana] in 1949. I met him. He was a young man. And I was had another husband with me. And he [first husband] went to Seward and he died over there. And we [Inez and Johnson] met each other and fell in love and got married.

Martina: when were you two married?


Martina: Long ago, did parents arrange the marriages?

Inez: No. [Inez and Johnson did not have an arranged marriage]

It was long ago, that thing was long ago. Marriages weren’t like that.

Long ago, did people get married because they wanted to and fell in love, or did they get married because their parents wanted them to?

Inez: When they [Inez and Johnson] were young, the man asked his parents when [he wanted to get married] they were young, amiii, when they [people wanting to get married] get old they don't even ask them [parents]. I guess. He [man wanting to get married] asked his mother.

Martina: Did people take into consideration who they were related to before they got married?

Inez: We wasn't [were not] related, we were far apart from [being] related.

Martina: So, if people were related they wouldn't get married.

Johnson and Inez: No, they wouldn’t get married.

Martina: Why do you think the knowledge of the family tree is important?

Inez: It's important. I heard long ago, that when related people get married their kids can't be normal. That's what I used to hear about that, long ago.

Martina: Do you believe that people know their roots as well as they should?

Inez: Aye.

Do people know who they're related to and their grandparents and great - grandparents as well as they should? Do you think that most people know who they are related to?

Inez: Parents always tell them [children] that they're [who they are] related.

Johnson: Yeah, they get it ahead of time, they [grandparents and parents] always tell whether they're related to her or him. That way they find out. Anytime they find out [discover that they are related] they quit that, you know, separate.

Martina: Where and how were you married?

Inez: We was married by a pastor in the pastor’s cabin.

Martina: Around here?

Inez: Yeah, u-hu.

Johnson: In Kiana.

Martina: What was your fondest memory in your marriage? What do you two remember and like doing together? For example, did you two travel someplace together or what do you remember best about being married to each other?

Inez: Yeah, we used [to] be like each other and go together and go someplace [travel to places together]. We used to and like to be together right now.

Martina: Your fondest memory. Like, what did you two do together?

Inez: Hunt.

Martina: Hunt?

Inez: Ah-hu. We do things together.

Martina: How many children do you have?

Inez: We don't have any of our own, but I got some kids with my first husband. And they always call him [Johnson] "Taata" even though, he's not their real taata.

Martina: When did you become a resident of Kiana?

Inez: When he [Johnson] was born coming down from Shungnak to Kiana. He was born there [Shungnak], coming down. And I was at Noorvik and we move up here [Kiana] in 1949.

Martina: So, you were born in Noorvik, and you moved to Kiana in 1970, or what date?

Johnson: 1949 and now I come from... I always call my home town in Shungnak. That's the closest I can get is Shungnak. That's where I started from. And we come down with a boat and, ah, I was two, twins. My twin brother die, and that's all.

Martina: Was there specific roles for the men and women?

Inez: What does that mean?

What did the women and men do when you were growing up? Did the men usually go hunting and the women pick berries or clean fish? What type of things did people do for work?

Johnson: Yeah, We do the hunting and fishing.

Inez: Yeah, He do the hunting. Us women pick berries, but he [Johnson] always go with us when I pick berries.

Johnson: We both do it. Whatever needs to be done, together, not only one. All of us. We go out hunting too.

So, you both go out fishing and picking berries together.

Johnson: Yeah, all together. Two of us together, everything that needs to be done. We do it.

We are going to be asking you about the values. The Inupiat Illitqisiat values. When you were a little child, did you learn those values from your grandparents? Did they teach you?

Inez: Yeah, they did.

Johnson: Yes, and the other families showed us too. Not only us, our families, the other families also help us. And they show us [when we were children] how to do it, Tell us how to do it. That way we learn.

How important are the values to you?

Inez: They were real important, they always [parents] teach us what not to do, to respect elders, and not talk back, help others, help the old people, and never to expect money from them. Not like the kids today who always want money.

Johnson: One thing, when you [youths] help elders with something, you don't have to get paid to help them, that way you give it [time and work] away. And they[elders] always say that, somebody is really big when they respect elders. Those who don’t respect elders, and do anything they want with themselves then they can't live long. That's what they [elders] always say, they [people who do not live by the values] can't live long. They always die young.

Those people who don't respect the elders don't live long so they pay for not following the values. Right?

Johnson: Yes, but now it's different, it's really different now.

How do you think it's different today?

Johnson: When you see how the young people act. I mean, you know.

Inez: Right now, the kids always wait for pay when they help us out now.

Oh, so they want to get paid for helping elders now.

Johnson, Inez: U-hu, yeah.

Do you believe that the values are being taught as well as they should be?

Inez: Maybe they [parents] teach them all right but kids don't listen much now to anything. They always play too much. And they never ever respect the teachers or elders, they [youths] always talk back. They're getting funny, not like us when we were in school. And they [schools] try to teach us Eskimo and Inupiaq, but some of them [children] learn some, I guess, but not all of them. And we know it [Inupiaq Language] because our parents don't know how to speak English and we learn from them [our parents] to speak Eskimo, Inupiaq. Right now, I don’t know if they [youths] try to learn the values. I guess.

Do you have any advise for the young people, for the children? Do you have anything to tell them? Like if they should try harder. What kind of advice do you have?

They [parents, elders, teachers] should teach them more. Tell them [youths] what they ought to do. If they [youths] listen and if they [parents, elders, teachers] tell them listen and try to learn, they’ll know, they’re smart now. Kids are smart but never really try to show it.

What do you feel is your role and responsibility is as a grandmother and grandfather?

Inez: I like it. I like my grandchildren and there are not many [who are] all right. But, I really like Monica. I miss her real bad. We raised that Charlie. He stayed with us every year since he was in Head Start. His picture is up there (pointed to a picture on the wall) when he was in Head Start. Now, he’s got a girlfriend, blonde hair like you (referring to Ms. Kennedy), I guess. He’s in Palmer.

I like to be grandma. They [grandchildren] always call him "Taata", all of them. All the kids. They like him and he loves his grandchildren?

Johnson: Yes.

Inez: But, he [Johnson] likes to spoil Monica.

Thank you for answering our questions.

Johnson: Yeah.

Inez: Your welcome.


Were marriages arranged for people when you were growing up?

I remember a few [were arranged], but the parties [involved] did not necessarily always cooperate.

Did people take into consideration who they were related to before getting married?

Well, I don’t recall serious consideration , but ah, it was certainly was talked about a lot and mulled over.

Do you believe that people know their roots as well as they should?

No, I don’t think that they do.

How many children do you have?


When did you become a resident of Kiana?

In 1935 (1934-1935), but my grandmother was from Kiana, so I’ve had roots here.

What type of work did you have to do when you were growing up?

Well, we carried wood in (chopped wood that is) into the house, and we participated in, or I participated in, whatever kind of fishing activities that my mother had. And we never were left home, if they went sailing then we had to go, and I mean there was no lolling around in the village at home, you had to go along to camp or on these fishing things, fishing excursions.

What are some of the social problems that our society is facing today?

Well, lots of them, ah, hang on a second. Okay, for one thing, we have too many teenage pregnancies, too many people dependant on welfare and food stamps. We have too much vandalism. Oh, we have too much drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, and we parents are not concerned enough about our children's unacceptable behaviors.

How do you think some of these social problems can be solved?

Let me think of that, let me think a bit. For one thing, I can’t stress education enough to help solve our social problems. Another idea, is for the government on one level, not to make it so easy for people to obtain welfare funds. As it is now, the system is too readily abused and I think President Clinton’s idea, that he had when he was running for president, of having people trained as an incentive to go out and find work to support themselves was a good idea, if he would have followed through on it.

Are you familiar with the Inupiat Illitqusiat?

Well, I think so.

How important are the Inupiaq values to you?

That one is a funny question. Ah, I have a problem with anytime I hear about Inupiaq values- I’m not so sure I know what they are, but I guess I would say they would be important to me if we [the Inupiat] would actually apply those values, what ever they are, and not just talk about Inupiaq values.

Which values are the most important to you and why?

I guess, respect for one another and respect for: other people, other races , other religions. Well, I think that answers that.

Can you speak Inupiaq?


Do you read and write in Inupiaq?

Um, I don’t read or write Inupiaq because the Eskimo alphabet was recently developed and it is cumbersome for me to follow as it is presently written. It is easier for me to read in English and follow then it is for me to try to figure out the Inupiaq alphabet.

How did you learn the Inupiaq Language?

When I was growing up most of the people spoke Eskimo. In Kiana they spoke [people] half Inupiaq half English but in Selawik they essentially spoke Inupiaq

Do you think in Inupiaq?


What should the young people do today to keep the Inupiaq culture and language alive?

If young people are interested and they have parents and grandparents who speak Inupiaq and still participate in the old traditional activities they can’t help but absorb some of the culture and have a better feel for the Inupiaq language. I always like to give an example of some people in town like um: Rosaline Jackson, Josephine Morris, Hilda Morina who can speak good English and yet make a point of speaking Eskimo to their children. As a result, most of their children can speak it [Inupiaq Language] some are not comfortable with it, but can understand it, which is a good start. The grandchildren are a different situation they may not be as interested

Were you ever involved with the spirit movement during the ‘80s?

I never have had a feel for that movement. I don’t know what it is. I knew that they spoke about it[other people in the region] but I didn’t actually feel the movement.

Do you think that people live by the Inupiaq values today?

Not necessarily, but I still have a problem with these values, I keep on saying .

Do you think the problems today are any different from the problems of the ‘80s?


Can you tell us about some of these values

I think basically being interested in what happens to your fellow man and being interested in your community.

Why is it important to know your family tree?

To have a better feel for your family’s heritage.

Are the social problem the same now as when you were a child or did they change?

Oh, there were for one thing not as many teenage pregnancies. And welfare check and food stamps were not available when I was growing up. You had to fish and hunt to survive. We were People. There was always a little vandalism but not as much as there is no. People I think kept track of it a lot better. Actually, I have to say, as a whole, in these villages discipline was never a real priority. I think we have been more permissive than a lot of other cultures.


No, [I can’t speak Inupiaq fluently].

No, [I don’t read and write Inupiaq].

Yes, I am quite familiar with the Inupiat Ilitqusait program as it got started in the early ‘80s. This project was started because there was a lot of concern that our young people were being exposed to unhealthy life-styles as a result of poor role-modeling. A lot of our young people were turning to alcohol, drugs, and suicide as a way out.

At that point our region’s leaders, working with, and for, the elders began the process of traveling to the villages to hold town meetings so that each community could discuss their problems and try to figure out a way to solve them. There was a historical perspective given, to remind people of the transition which took place over the period of the last 100 years. This brought things to the present and got people at those meetings to start looking at how we can do things differently in the future to address these issues. The organizations involved were mainly NANA and the Regional Elders’ Council with support from Maniilaq. The people involved were: John Schaeffer, Robert Newlin, Billy Sheldon, Willie Hensley, Marie Greene, Racheal Craig, and Roland Booth.

No, [I didn’t attend the meeting where the values were developed.]

Inupiat means "the Real People," Ilitqusait means, " Those things that make us who we are," so when we look at the Inupiaq Values and begin to understand what they mean , we see that they reflect the culture because that is what defines us as a people. these values have helped our people survive the test of time.

Sometimes, we have trouble understanding what something means. Sometimes traditional values and Western values conflict and we feel we have to choose one over the other, rather than utilizing both at the appropriate time and place.

Most definitely [the Inupiat Ilitqusait movement benefited society]! In some ways the Spirit Program which got started here is what prompted the sobriety movement. A lot of Spirit Camps got started around the state as a result of what was started here.

Our society has gotten greedy to the point of where the focus is on "me" instead "we." We hurt each other through various abuses, but mostly think the system is not ready to acknowledge us for who we are and spend a lot of energy trying to Americanize anyone different. For instance a person who can speak three languages is called tri-lingual, a person who speaks two languages is called bi-lingual, a person who speaks one language is called an American.

From my perspective [today’s problems] seem the same [as the problems in the ‘80s], but the pressure being felt by those encountering those problems seems to have increased. Some of the problems deal with time, discipline, and direction. But when communities are truly willing to work together most, if not all, problems can be solved.

I think the younger people of today are doing what we teach them. If we have taken the time to teach them and live the values ourselves then so will the young people, but if we haven’t then they probably will not unless they have learned them somewhere else. It has to start in the home. Advice for the young people, You don’t always have to be the best, however you should always do your best. Think long and hard about what you want to out of this life, and are you willing to face the consequences of that decision. It’s OK to say, " I love me."

No [young people don’t know the language], but then we are not teaching them the language so how can they learn it. To keep the language and culture alive you must insist that your parents make it happen. You must be willing to take the time to learn, live and teach what you have learned.

The Inupiaq values are very important to me and my family. Mostly the values were taught by our parents and we didn’t even know that we were learning values. We are probably mirror images of what our parents modeled for us. In our home, as a child, I knew I was loved; I felt loved, I was told I was loved, even when I was disciplined.

Unfortunately, [today] many children are not being taught (through example) the values which they will need to be self -sufficient. We have become dependent on others too much. TV is teaching a lot of values these days.

There are different roles in our families. The roles between men and women are changing to where there is more of an open partnership. Both need to make the necessary adjustments to make it work. Our roles in the family are ever-changing. Ask questions from your elders and parents, [ask them] what those roles and responsibilities are. You know that someone is your cousin, but you don’t know how; all you know is that [he or she] is your cousin. When you know that you are related to someone, you know that they are "family." Knowing your family history makes you feel like you come from somewhere and you’re destined to go somewhere. It gives you a sense of self, of belonging, and having roots.

Finally, Inupiat Ilitqusait is not a program, it is a way of life which we have defined as ours. What has been defined as "Inupiaq values" upon closer inspection are really basic human values. It is what makes us different from other people; not more than someone else, not less than someone else, just different. It is up to us to learn and understand what those differences are and carry them forward.


[I don’t speak Inupiaq fluently, but] I understand the Shishmaref dialect, and some of the upper and lower Kobuk dialects.

No, I cannot read or write the Inupiaq language.

[I learned the Inupiaq language while] being exposed to it [as I was growing up]. Listening at home.

Yes, [I was familiar with the Spirit Movement of the `80s].

My understanding is that [the movement was started because] we needed something that would focus our people back on the right track. We had lots of alcohol and drug problems, [and as a result, we] were losing what little culture we had left. Kids were not listening to their parents or teachers; [they had] no respect.

NANA, Maniilaq, Northwest Arctic Borough and the school district [were all involved in getting the movement started]. A group of people -- elders and others met during one of our HESS (Health, Education & Social Services) meetings and came up with the values. It was, more or less, thrown together. It was changed somewhat after the list came out, then the elders decided that they would stick with the list that they came up with.

Yes, [I remember attending those meetings], although I did not have any say about what the values were. We came up with game plans about how we were going to incorporate values into every day life, which organizations would do it and what funds were available to do it with.

Yes, [the Inupiaq values] do reflect the culture. However, [the list] is not complete. They left out some values, [although] I don't remember what they were.

Yes, I think that seeing and hearing about our values have helped our students, [and, as a result, they have helped to strengthen our culture].

Yes, [I believe many people live by their values, although,] no [some do not]. The values are already built into our culture [so people can live by them if the want to]. [But] not everyone lives by them or believes in them or teaches them.

[Yes, I believe the Inupiat Ilitqusiat movement benefited society.] It gave us a stable basis [on which] to build and teach our children. [Still, our society continues to face social problems such as] alcohol and drug abuse, and a high suicide rate. It was worse in the 1980s [than it is today] because [then] we had alcohol for sale.

[To solve the problems,] we needed to teach our children about the effects of alcohol and drugs; we need strong self-esteem programs for our children during our school years; we need to teach our children that committing suicide is forever and that committing suicide is wrong; and we need to push our values, teach our values, and live our values.

Yes, [ in many ways the young people are following the Inupiaq values] because they already know the values and because [the values are] already there [in their lives]. It is built into our culture. But, no,[ in other ways they are not], because our young people are exposed to the Western culture, and it's like they are in conflict about our culture and that of the nalauqmii world.

Yes, [ I have advice for the youths of today]: Spend lots of time with your elders; help them; talk with them; learn the values from them; and live the values.

[When we were young], we were focused not to learn the [Inupiaq] language; now all students are exposed to the language. Students have more choices about the language. [I believe] students should be able to learn Inupiaq. If students can learn to speak English, they sure can learn to speak Inupiaq.

[In order to keep the language and culture alive, students should] speak the language, learn the values and live by them. Don't be ashamed that you are Native. Be proud of who you are. Believe that you can survive anything life has to offer. Believe that you can become a school superintendent, a teacher, a doctor, a hunter, an ivory carver, or a seamstress. Be a positive thinker.

I try to live by [the Inupiaq values] all the time. They are very important to me. I try to teach my grandchildren about them.

My parents lived and taught [the values] to me in many different ways. My mother’s life was saved by her cousin Martha, so all her life my mother shared everything with Martha’s family. Every spring when people migrated to Kotzebue, no matter how poor we were, we always shared what we had. The church had a lot to do with the teaching of the values. We had to go to church. [Also], Pop always worked hard and was never lazy to provide for our family. They always shared their native food that they gathered, always sharing the first catch with elders. [In the village], everyone raised us, corrected us as children, loved us, pushed us. [We had] strong family ties; we were in this together, sharing our joys, losses and concerns. We were taught what was right and [what was] wrong and [we were] punished if we did bad.

[The Inupiaq values are taught to the children of today] somewhat. They are exposed during Inupiaq Days, and some of the elders may teach the values in their families.

We know what to expect from our parents, [but] no, [there aren’t too many different roles for different family members any more]. I guess there used to be meaning for each role, [but] I don’t know them.

[Young people should also learn their family trees] so that [they] know who [their] family is. In my travel throughout the district, I have learned who my relatives are. They really are a help. The other reason [to know who your relatives are] is so that you will not go out with your cousin.


What does the Inupiat Ilitqusiat mean? Inupiat [means] "The real people" and Ilitqusiat [means] "Spirit". The origination of the first adopted and formally written values were in 1981. There was a committee comprised of: John Schaeffer from NANA, Robert Newlin, Roland Booth from the church, Rachel Craig from the NWABSD, and me, Bobby Curtis, from Maniilaq, who gathered together to form a movement to write the values and have a spiritual revival within our culture. Many painful issues were addressed like: alcoholism, drug abuse, child abuse and neglect, and other social ills. We met together and traveled throughout the region to talk about our problems and come up with solutions. Despite all these efforts made, those problems still exist today.

How are the Inupiaq Values different from those of other cultures?

These values are universal and almost any person can relate to them. Although, they are symbolic to the Inupiat people.

In the past, how were the values handed down through the generations?

Historically, values were passed down from elders to youths. Everything revolved around subsistence, so the adults would be out working while the elders were responsible for teaching the values to the children. There is not strong relationships established between the elders and youths nowadays, like it was in the past -- which is hurting the culture.

In the past, was a person punished for not responding to the Inupiaq Values?

When rules were violated, youngsters, and even adults, were punished; varying degrees of punishments were implemented [depending on] the crime. There have been accounts of people being banished for severe crimes, never to return.

How does a child who knows the values at a young age benefit more in life than a person who does not know the Inupiaq Values?

Being able to experience life and learn thorough mistakes -- listen, obey, and respect the collective wisdom of our elders. They know what was required and demanded to survive and thrive in this land.

How would a person who follows and respects all the values compare with a person who does not respect the values?

When a person [follows the values he] shows respect to himself, others, elders, and all living things. It is important to teach our young to love and respect themselves. Apply the values in your everyday life and to our people. Those who do not adhere to these values do not respect themselves, others, and are more likely to be self-destructive, hurt others, and nature.

How important is it to the elders that these values are taught to the children?

Children learn through traditional activities and everyday life. These values were [taught in] classroom sessions; [children were taught] how to act and [to learn their] limitations.

What was the Spirit Journey and when did it take place?

A journey that took place in the early 1980s where individuals traveled from village to village to unify the communities, region, and people. People met and discussed concerns, problems, and social ills with the hopes of identifying and solving problems. [They] were able to find some solutions. Despite all the misfortunes the Inupiat people have been faced with we are a strong people. Overall, the movement was a helpful and healing experience.

How was the final list of values adopted by our people?

Seventeen values were collected throughout the region. Each village came up with a few values; some a few, while others only one or so.

Why are there seventeen values and not fifteen or twenty?

There was one additional value that was left out by accident: Honesty. Maybe young people should gather together and try to come up with more.

What are the five most important values?

It depends on which values are more important. I feel that they are all equal and interdependent. One of the most important values to me is Knowledge of Language. I can remember Inupiaq being the first language I understood, although I was never encouraged to speak the language. Now, I can still completely understand the language when I hear it, but I have to think about it when I speak it.

I can remember when I was a child that you were never supposed to walk in front of an elder, always behind them to show your respect and the elders’ right of authority. Elders were able to have full reign in administering discipline. I believe that the elders should reclaim their authority. Once they do take this action, many problems would disappear. Nowadays, many people complain, "Asrii!! There is nothing to do!" When I was growing up no one said that. There was always something to do.

Who authorized your group to travel from village to village to gather this information?

The group was comprised of : NANA, NWABSD, Regional Elders Council, and the Maniilaq Association. This was an administrative move that NANA authorized and the elders ratified.

Were you present at the ratification meeting, and how can we obtain the minutes from the meeting?

Yes, I was there, and you can contact Marie Green from NANA for the record of the meeting.

During the "Spirit Journey" were the values presented to the people or were they gotten through group talks?

Both. Our people realized and recognized problems. We also discussed what it means to be the "Real People" and why we should be proud of our heritage. We are different from other cultures and people. The revival inspired us, as a people, in the spirit movement. We are from a strong and powerful people. We are unique, different, and proud. We have something to contribute to life.

Do you remember the LA riots? After that occurred many more tourists started to come here. They said that they felt like they were looking for something spiritual from here and also felt safe in this environment. Many people leave to other places to discover who they really are. Many of us don’t realize how fortunate we are as a people until we leave. We have much to be thankful about.

The Inupiaq values are collective wisdom that have been passed from generation to generation, trying to teach the ways of life. Through living by rules you can prosper and gain rewards. There are consequences to being bad or violating (laws) values. The elders try to teach the values and hope that the young will live by them, but also let the youths make their own choices.


My parents are Roger and Mary Atoruk, I am married to Jim Morris from Kiana. I can speak Inupiaq a little, but need to translate it in my mind first. We did not have bilingual classes back [when I was a child]. We need to learn the language or it [will be] in danger of being lost when our elders pass away.

In 1981, I was not in Kiana but I heard about the Spirit Movement in Fairbanks. John Schaeffer was the main speaker. He talked about suicides, alcohol-related deaths, and violence in the communities, which were due the values [not being followed].

Parents set good examples to live by and showed the way of the values. Respect for elders really needs to be focused on, because [the elders] have known the Inupiaq culture for many generations. We can learn a lot from them. Values helped the people to survive back [before our generation]. They helped us to cope with all the changes that took place. Life was a lot simpler in a small community with little problems to face back [in the old days].

We learn from elders who interact with us every day. We need to take the opportunity to learn from the young people who live by the values; those values which show respect towards the elders and others. To succeed, everyone needs to work hard and be self-sufficient, and do positive things for their family.

The young people need to interact more with the elders. Males should provide for the family by: hunting, fishing, getting wood for heat, and providing food in the home. They should also teach the boys. Females should help men by: putting food on the table, fishing, berry picking, taking care of the children, and sewing garments for the family. Grandparents’ responsibilities include: looking after the family, knowing where and how family members are, and always teaching the young people how to do different things in life. Parents need to physically and emotionally take care of their children, and children should always help the parents.

By knowing who all your relations are in the villages and outside, you can always have a place to stay when traveling. It is important to learn from parents about our relatives. We need to be with the family to share and help each other, learn more about the history of people here in Kiana, and, more importantly, of the Inupiaq people.


I believe the younger generations should visit with elders and ask parents questions about how to survive. Our culture needs to try harder to learn Inupiaq. English is our second language and people should try to learn it, but also continue our language , which is in danger of being lost. I can not speak Inupiaq fluently, but can understand it when it is spoken.

The first time I heard about the Inupiat Ilitquisiat [values] was when I was in the third grade. My mother also taught words and had bilingual classes which are real important for learning the culture. I believe the values teach us the ways of our elders and how they lived. The values are being lived by some people while others are still learning. Children should listen to their parents and their elders, and remember what they teach.

I believe family roles are important in our culture, as well. Family roles can be shared when a mother or a father is absent. Families need to cooperate and work together and also teach the young children values to live by. Brothers and sisters need to be responsible and care for each other. People should learn as much as they can and show others how to be responsible.

I believe knowledge of family tree is important, so people know who they are related to and don’t date cousins. This also helps people know who to marry. We need to pass on our heritage, traditions, and knowledge of family tree to our children.


Can you speak Inupiaq fluently?

No, I can’t.

Do you read and write Inupiaq?

I wish I could.

How did you learn the Inupiaq Language?

I mainly learned what I know from attending church and my Mother.

Were you familiar with the spirit movement of the early `80s?

Yes, although, I wasn't a part of it. [That’s when the values were introduced and identified], but I don't think that the people live by the values. Parents and different organizations need to instill the values to their children and the younger generations.

What are some of the social problems that our society is facing today? Drugs and alcohol [are among the biggest problems].

Do you think these problems are any different from the problems when you were growing up?

The problems are different today from the ones when I was younger.

How do you think some of these social problems can be solved?

People need to attend church more regularly.

Do you think the young people of today are following the Inupiaq values? I don't see the young people following these values.

Do you have any advise for the youths of today?

Discover the values, live by them and work at them.

Do you believe that the young people of today know the language as well as they should?

No, I don't think that the young children know it. I was punished when I used to speak it. But people should not be embarrassed to speak the language. Be proud to speak it.

How were you taught the Inupiaq values?

I learned from my elders. I guess today there is too much responsibility on the schools. It’s more of the parents’ responsibility.

Values [in most cultures] seem to be all the same. [For example]: Respect others and others’ belongings.

[Today, as an adult] I believe I have a responsibility to set an example while I am working with the school.

Why is it important to know your family tree?

Because [it helps you] know yourself and gives you an identity.

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