Future King Island Speakers
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
King Island Inupiaq language is a unique dialect of Inupiaq,
which is a dialectal chain, extending along the coast from the Seward Peninsula
in the Bering Strait
up to North Slope, through Northern Canada and Greenland. The King Island
dialect of Inupiaq stems from their harsh but beautiful island isolated out
Bering Sea, some thirty miles off the mainland and ninety miles west of Nome.
Though the grammatical structure is common to the surrounding villages, the
people have developed their own expressions, unique to living on an island.
The literature I researched was about programs that exist for children and
very young people to reach fluency in an Indigenous or a Native language.
As I was reviewing articles and chapters in books on language revitalization,
I decided to concentrate on programs that were very successful in revitalizing
their heritage languages. I have traveled to New Zealand on a Maori Language
Study Tour and later attended the World Indigenous People's Conference
on Education (WIPCE) at Hilo, Hawaii and Hamilton, New Zealand. There I
attended workshops with a Hawaiian delegation on their Native language
During the 2002 Rural Academy for Culturally Responsive Schools at Northwest
I attended a class with Cecelia Martz and Lucy Sparck on "Starting
a Clemente Course." I have also listened to the staff of Nikaitchuat
Ilisaġviat, a very successful Inupiaq immersion school in Kotzebue, Alaska.
As I read through
the articles, the questions I asked myself were, "How do I help my
community regain language proficiency?" "How can we get there?" Fishman's
articles helped me to answer these questions by identifying where my community
is in terms of language loss.
Therefore, I worked backwards from my first
thought of adapting the "Yaaveskarniryaraq/Clemente" course
to Inupiaq to adapting "Inupiaq Phrases and Conversations" by
Lawrence Kaplan and Lorena Williams which was recorded in the Kotzebue
Since this was going to be a King Island version, I decided to tell the
story of King Island Inupiaq through a timeline of the language and used
Intergenerational Disruption Scale" to show language loss and Jon
suggestions on how to strengthen Native languages.
Who are the Inupiat?
Edna MacLean wrote an article on "Culture and Change
for Inupiat and Yupiks of Alaska" which lays out an excellent foundation
for this paper in describing who the Inupiat and Yupiks (her own spelling)
are. She begins her article with
the heritage of the Inuit (Inupiat and Yupiit). She talks about their
survival and how they thrived on their rich surroundings even though it is
one of the
toughest environments known to humans. MacLean illustrates how the
Inuit have migrated along the coast of Alaska through the Mackenzie River
the way to Greenland to move away from other warring communities.
Inuit lived according to their seasonal activities for hunting and gathering.
They learned to create their own homes, clothing and
from their natural
environment. MacLean describes how the qargit (qagzrit – King
Island dialect) were the center of the whaling communities where
stories and legends were told.
Men also repaired their hunting equipment and qayat (one-man
skin canoes). Younger men learned from the stories of the older men
in the qagzrit.
During the dark
winter months, the people danced and sang to have fun.
In recent times,
King Island had three qagzrit, named Aguliit, Nutaat and Qaluilat.
Young men would live in them until they were of marrying
There they learned
to make tools, carved ivory, and listened to storytellers.
goes on to describe the celebration of the whaling communities
and the festivities of successful hunts. Traditions such as the "Kivgiqsuat," the
Messenger Feast has made a comeback since 1988 for the North Slope
Arctic villages. It is usually held at Barrow, Alaska every other
MacLean provides a nice description of "Oral Literature
Through Legends." With
the absence of written stories, she says that Inupiat have two
categories of oral literature, one of unipkaat meaning
legends and the other of quliaqtuat meaning "those
which are told". The unipkaat have characters
that can be transformed from animals to humans and vice versa.
They usually are the
shamans that worked with the supernatural world. Frank Ellanna
and Aloysius Pikonganna of King Island told such legends at the
community hall when I was growing up.
The quliaqtuat stories are
life experiences of Inuit of recent history. For the King Islanders,
since the introduction of Catholicism,
the Catholic Bible stories.
MacLean shows how the Inupiaq language
is indeed the reflection of the environment, in addition she gives a grammatical
of one sentence,
be written in twelve ways without changing its meaning. Nouns
can have certain endings
that show ownership or the subject of a sentence while the verbs
contain endings for transitive or intransitive sentences. The
object of a sentence
has no marker,
which shows it is a direct object.
In the last one hundred years
or so the Inuit have experienced drastic changes with technology and travel.
MacLean talks about
how the Inuit
changed along with these changes. She gives an example of the
word suppun, a word for gun. The word comes from the root word
(suvi- K.I. dialect)
gush out or flow out". So the literal action of a gun
(compressed air gushing out) identifies what it is in Inupiaq.
Some words though are no longer being used within the King
Island community mainly because the terrain of the mainland
of that on
King Island. For
example, the word for throwing out water from a porch is siqiraq-.
When water is thrown out, it flies with the direction of the
wind before it
the ground. (On the steep terrain homes are built on stilts
high above the ground.)
I had never heard of this word until I went to King Island
with my two elder sisters who spoke to us only in our language.
of us raised
speaking Inupiaq, the language "came home".
ends her article with these words; "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 and schools" (p.
11) We as the caretakers of our heritage have to be active
participants of our Native language.
Guiding Thoughts and Ideas
for Native Language Survival
As I was reading about guiding
principles for language instruction, I came across two guidelines for language
first time my youngest daughter and I went to New Zealand.
A zealous woman, who is a Canadian Cree retired educator
daycare centers and schools throughout our two-week visit.
She wrote an article on "The Preservation and Use of
Our Language: Respecting the Natural Order of Our Creator" in
the book called, "Indigenous Languages Across
the Community" edited by Barbara Burnaby and Jon Reyhner.
The other guide I used was a little booklet titled, "Guidelines
for Strengthening Indigenous Languages" by the Assembly
of Alaska Natives with the Alaska Native Knowledge Network.
This will be discussed after Kirkness' article.
article, Kirkness writes about how "individuals, families,
even nations must uphold their respective indigenous languages
is an expression of culture" (p.17). She states the
importance of maintaining Native languages by communities.
To that end, she gives ten directives. For the
propose of this paper, I will use numbers one and ten but
here is the whole list of Kirkness' directives:
Must Bank Our Languages.
2. We Must Raise the Consciousness Level of Our People.
3. We Must Mobilize Our Resources.
4. We Must Provide Training and Certification
5. We Must Develop a Comprehensive and Appropriate Curriculum.
6. We Must Engage in Meaningful Research.
7. We Must Inform Public Opinion.
8. We Must Eliminate Artificial Boundaries.
9. We Must Press for Aboriginal Language Legislation.
10. We Must Work Together.
The first message she gives is to start
recording fluent speakers, most of whom are elders. They can use
audiotapes, videotapes and CD
ROMs (I would include DVD's made by indigenous speakers).
These suggestions may spark an interest for language "revival
and maintenance" (p.
17). This is exactly what this paper is about!
with the level of consciousness by the Aboriginal people
must be raised about language loss from
They must learn how
languages were lost due to schooling away from home and losing
their Native identity.
Kirkness states, "Of greatest
importance is the need to identify ‘best
practice pedagogy' based on the traditions of our people" (p.
19). I agree with this statement. We do have our own way
for teaching and learning
whether it is with adults or young children. Language is
often separated from activities in the traditional grammar
teaching methods. Kirkness calls this the "old
grammar teaching" (p. 19), which does not work with
indigenous people. She also talks about the importance of
curriculum development to maintain our
languages, especially for intergenerational learning, younger
generations learning from the older ones. She urges that, "If
two successive generations do not speak the languages, it
will be lost, we need a planned intervention" (p.
20). This statement clearly describes the situation for the
King Island young people and children because they do not
speak nor understand the language past
the "baby language," sometimes called "motherese".
When babies are spoken to in Inupiaq, we make our words shorter.
Usually the voice
is not raised, as in English in fact the tone of the voice
gets softer and lower.
Kirkness concluded her article by saying
that aboriginal or indigenous people must work together to
follow and honor
the "natural order of the Creator" (p.
22). To her, the terms means maintaining and preserving our
respective languages. My community is at a stage of making
critical decisions about maintaining our
language; otherwise, it will be lost.
The second article I
worked from is titled "Guidelines for Strengthening
Indigenous Languages" which was adopted by Alaska Native
Educators. The guideline booklet gives suggestions on how
to strengthen Alaska Native languages.
It advises Alaska Natives to speak in their traditional languages
on a daily basis. It also offers assistance that can be used
by local language advisory
committees (if there are is one) to make future recommendations
about their Native language in their community.
The key guidelines
that serve well for this paper are:
• Guidelines for Native Elders
• Guidelines for Parents
• Guidelines for Aspiring Language Learners
These particular guidelines
can be interwoven for intergenerational language learning and speaking.
For the Native elders, they
are encouraged to
speak to their younger people daily, use traditional ways
of teaching, and agree
mentors for language learners. The parents are encouraged
to use traditional kinship for family and to believe in their
children to learn a language.
The aspiring language learners are in turn encouraged to
mentors, to spend
time with elders, to learn the deeper meanings of words.
An example of this intergenerational language learning is how
learns to make an
uġiłiqaaq or a parka
cover (calico) from an elder woman and/or her mother. They
are discussed further under the section, "Strengthening
King Island Inupiaq Through Intergenerational Learning and
A definition of elders is included in the preface
that I really like:
"The identification of ‘Elders' as culture-bearers is not
simply a matter of chronological age, but a function of the respect accorded
in each community who exemplify the values and lifeways of
the local culture and who possess the wisdom and willingness to pass their
knowledge on to future
generations. Respected Elders serve as the philosophers,
professors and visionaries of a cultural community." (Assembly of
Alaska Native Educators, 2001, p.3).
Within the King Island community we have such
elders. They love to share their cultural knowledge and are always willing
to participate in different community activities.
Other guidelines included
in the booklet are for:
• Native Communities and Organizations
• Education Agencies
• Media Producers
• General Recommendations.
Under each area, various actions are suggested
to help strengthen indigenous languages in Alaska. Both of these
make for a good underlying
foundation for language retention and maintenance.
Programs – Clemente Course
I originally thought I would adapt the Yaaveskarniryaraq/Clemente
project that derived from the Clemente course by Earl
Shorris. The "Yaves" model
involves elders as professors to the young people learning
their cultural roots through the humanities. It serves
as redirecting their cultural foundation in
their Native identity.
In his book, Riches for the
Poor, Shorris talks about overcoming poverty in
America. He believes the poor
needs to learn
the humanities, i.e.
museums, opera, and
the theatre. He developed a course to work with the
poor in the area of history and learning about plays.
Clemente course worked
well for people who needed help. The last chapter before
the conclusion is called "Other
countries, Other Cultures" This chapter describes
how Shorris brought his work to the Mayan people in
Yucatan, Mexico. He had never thought of the Clemente
Course outside of English. However he and his comrade
met and talked about ways
to teach Mayan art, history, literature and philosophy.
The course was taught in the Mayan language to reach
the high culture of the Mayan people.
In the year 2000
Shorris traveled to Alaska during the second year of
the Mayan Clemente course. He went
about "poverty and education
at the state Democratic Convention" (p. 240).
While there, he met with a number of individuals to
help make the Clemente course begin in "bush
Alaska." Shorris was introduced to key people
to make it happen. They flew to Chevak where the course
began with four elders and adult students. The class
was held for a year. The students were enriched with
Yup'ik language and
The Yup'ik participants named the
Clemente course to "Yaaveskarniryaraq" which
means, the study of Y/Cupik way of life. They provided
a loose translation of "Yaaveskarniryaraq":
"We, the C/Yupiit are raised according to the original directions of
our forefathers. We love one another, our belief is strong, and we continue
to better our lives.
We know that our way of life has been grounded in traditional
values and customs since time immemorial. Those who follow the teachings of
respect understand that
everything has a spirit with rewards of gratitude.
Those who follow the teachings of our ancestors are intelligent, self-assured
and prosperous" (p. 247).
Shorris ends the chapter talking about Mexico.
His point was made that through the humanities, where people
raise themselves out of it by studying who they are
and where they come from. It is
through reflective thinking that a high culture is
Of course we would want to reach this level
of "high culture" within
our community. We would need to assist the adults
to speaking fluently in order to learn fully from elders. When I worked at
the Kawerak Eskimo Heritage Program
as a translator and transcriber, I often came across
words I did not understand. So I had to ask an elder what the words meant.
That way, I can properly translate
the words into English. In a sense, the elders
were my "professors."
In May of 2002, there was a "Rural Academy
for Culturally Responsive Schools" held
at Northwest Campus in Nome. Cecelia Martz
and Lucy Sparck facilitated a session on "Yaaveskarniryaraq: The
Study of Yuuyaraq, Applied to Inupiaq." During
the session, they described the college course
in which they had assisted their elders to be professors. The students were
young and middle-aged adults. A participant
of the original class was present to share
her experience as a student of this class.
Martz and Sparck began by telling
us that in
the Yup'ik history with formal
education, young people were sent away for
high school. When this happened, they had
lost their Yup'ik foundation. They
were severed from the teachings of the elders
and the community.
In the Yup'ik society, young people
learned their roles, as they became young
The facilitators suggested that to
a class, it must be with a core group of
who would be willing to help as mentors and
Martz and Sparck stressed that once
the group gets going, they have to stay with the schedule
the group must
for the class in order for it to be successful.
They continued with "designing
the course that can teach (traditional)
knowledge though traditional educational
2) practiced in the community. I believe
this is the most important part for success.
suggested identifying organizations from
both "inside and outside" the
community to gain partnerships for funding
the course. This would include organizations
outside the region.
This course is based
on the "guiding philosophy of Cup'ik
3). It is an incorporated study of literature,
history, art, science, literacy, and spirituality.
Since this class was taught totally in
the students were able to rediscover their
own world through their own eyes.
a yearlong course with elders as the professors
in the C/Yup'ik
language for young adults. Once our partial
Inupiaq speakers become fluent or comfortable
in the language then this would be a goal
for our parents with very
young children. They would eventually be
the generation to raise their children
with Inupiaq as a first language. I really
like the way the whole course is based
on Y/Cup'ik way of life and discovering
that "high culture" through
Successful Indigenous Immersion
As I was researching for information
on Native language revitalization, I kept
Maori and Hawaiian immersion
preschools. The Maori forged on opening
daycare centers where the little children
the Maori language all day! This reminded
me of one of our late elders, Margaret
back in the
late seventies. She used to tell us, "For
children to learn Inupiaq, they have
to listen to at least two speakers. That
they will figure out what is being
said." I have never thought much
of her statement since I was trained
as a classroom teacher in a Western sense.
I had learned that I am the teacher and
the language will come from me. Now I
what she meant. We have to converse and
communicate in Inupiaq in order for children
to hear and learn the language.
From the core vocabulary of the "Ugiuvaŋmiuraaqtuaksrat
can move forward in becoming fluent in
an immersion setting.
Local Alaska Native
immersion schools exist throughout the
state. The one I
on was the "Nikaitchuat Ilisaġviat" at
Kotzebue, Alaska. All the staff of Nikaitchuat
Ilisaġviat School was at the "Rural
Academy for Culturally Responsive Schools" in
2002. They shared how they opened their
The following descriptions are
of these successful indigenous immersion
Alaska, Hawaii and New
Te Kohanga Reo
As described by Jeanette King, Te Kohanga
Reo was quite a language movement
when it began
early 1980's. The terms, Te
Kohanga Reo means "Language
Nest" where older women began
taking care of preschool children age
birth to five years in order to speak
only in the Maori language. This became
for the language movement. The older
fluent speakers wanted to pass on their
language proficiency to the young children
since they learn language most easily.
In 1982 the first Kohanga Reo was opened
in Wellington. By 1996, the largest
number of Kohanga Reos rose to 767
centers, however the numbers dropped
to 646 in 1998 (King, p. 122).
of these children wanted schools opened
for them so they can
a few years,
They were private schools at first
but were later funded by the government.
Today, Maori parents have choices to what type of schools they want to send
children to. At our
visit, (my youngest
stayed at have two sons, ages six and
ten. They attended a bilingual school
they were taught
in the morning
English in the afternoon.
can understand their parents when they
are spoken to in Maori and respond
back in the
On our two visits to
New Zealand, it was most impressive to watch little
us into their
Marae (tribal community
along with their
caretakers. We toured a number of
daycares and preschools, which
are connected to a Marae. We also
toured Kura Kaupapa Maori schools, secondary
and tribal teacher colleges. At each
we visited we were welcomed by
the Maori according to their custom
of singing in guests and long speeches.
daughter and I did our part by singing
and dancing back to them in our King
It was most moving
sat listening attentively and quietly
as we sang back to them. Another
memorable moment was when
we met a
a young woman who
began learning Maori at a Kohanga
Indeed the Maori have
made their language alive again by
be educated in
that language. Their
philosophy of schooling was carried
out in order to make a language shift
predominately English speakers to
Maori speakers in matter of about
years. Their small
is a lesson
us to follow
since the state
of King Island Inupiaq is now the
same as it was for the Maori in 1982.
adults and elders
but not the young people and children.
population of speakers though is
one big difference. While in New
Maori have a common language regardless
of where in New Zealand they reside" (Stiles,
1997, p. 151). For the Inupiaq language
however, it is a dialectal chain
under four flags; Chukotka region
in Russian Far East, Alaska, USA,
and Greenland. Each village speaks
a dialect of it's own. King
Island, in the Bering Strait region
is usually listed under Bering Strait
the Seward Peninsula.
In "The Movement to
Revitalize Hawaiian Language and
Hinton and Hale's The Green
Book of Language Revitalization in
Practice, Sam Warner begins
this chapter on the "socio-historical
the Hawaiian society, and their language
history. He gives a grim picture
of the Hawaiian Native people in
education with loss of language and
in the last 20 years the Hawaiians
have gone through a revitalization
of their language and culture through
immersion schools and "language
little ones. He also talks about
issues and problems that came up
with these programs.
As I read the
article, it reminds me of the same
experiences the Alaska
Western contact, for
in schools for
speaking their Native language, and
dealing with the early missionaries
to loss of traditional religion.
population is underrepresented in
education as teachers.
the roots of revival in Hawaiian language and culture
by late 1960's with the young people
in song and dance. This led to
courses at the university level along with
some important changes at the state
level. Fashioned after Kohanga
Leos" (language nests)
were opened in Hawaii. They are
total immersion preschools in the
language. There were early difficulties
with the state's Department of
and Housing (DSSH). One of the
arguments was that the immersion
teaching was not a true method
as teaching in the grammar-translation
The Hawaiian language immersion
schools for elementary, intermediate,
began when the
Native educators and parents
realized that their
would not survive another generation.
Also, the children from the Punana
learning in their
by the Hawaiian Natives said that
their language and culture were
need for maintenance
language to survive.
various issues that the immersion schools faced not
also the politics
of who would control
schools. In the
the accomplishment of the Hawaiian
immersion schools are to be commended.
thing is working through the
Hawaiian state government to obtain their
goals, which is to revive and
keep their Hawaiian language alive.
A King Island Youth Group was
started in the late 1990's and
young Hawaiians, the teens wanted
to do traditional dances. So
three drummers began drumming
for them. Soon after that, the
elder women and parents
joined in. All of us began learning
from the elders! We practice
three times a week. The teens
the correct motions from the
memories of the elders.
When the young people did not
understand what they needed to
do, My niece,
Marilyn Koezuna-Irelan I had
for the two groups. We eventually
name of King Island Youth Group
to "Ugiuvangmiut King Island
better reflect all of our age
groups. With this in place, we
can begin language lessons reinforced
by the recorded lessons. From
there, we actually need to speak
only in Inupiaq during our dance
practices. We usually practice
once or twice
a week in early fall and throughout
the winter until spring hunt
begins in April.
An Inupiaq Immersion
In the newsletter, Sharing
Our Pathways, (Volume 7, Issue 1,
Diane Schaffer describes
immersion school at
team that put the school together
beginnings but a lot of determination!
They and other concerned parents
began their meetings
about education issues in mid
1990's. As time went on they
formed separate committees
for building, curriculum and
furniture, finance and enrollment.
Each committee was responsible
for obtaining the items that
were needed for the
school. They opened their doors
in 1998 with help from various
organizations such as the Northwest
Arctic Native Association (NANA),
Manilaq, a nonprofit
arm of NANA, and the Kotzebue
Traditional Council through
the Indian Reorganization Act.
In their Inupiaq language,
Nikaitchuat means "anything
is possible or never give up" and
Ilisaġviat means "a
place to learn." It is
a school for young children.
are written from their perspectives.
The teachers bring their students
outside as much as possible.
I believe that is the most
important part is teaching
the children in their language
from their land and other local
resources. That way the students
are grounded in their Inupiaq
foundation and can readily
learn of the outside world
For the founders of the school,
it was important for the children
learn the Inupiaq language.
very important point in Schaeffer's
article is parent
parents have to be committed
to have their students learn
the Inupiaq way. The parents
are also asked to volunteer
per month. Extended family
members of the students end
as well. The volunteers read
to children, serve snacks and
to name a
few volunteer activities.
the time of Schaffer's writing of the article, they had nineteen
students ranging from pre-school
to second grade. They had
a staff of one director, a
materials developer, and
four teachers. Schaffer was working
with the "Parent
Governance Committee" to
expand their school to Fifth
grade with the older students.
This is very good model to
follow when we are ready
for such an immersion
school. I really liked the
idea of different committees
to acquire what was needed
to open a school.
with Diana Iguguq Schaffer
about school's status
said, they have twenty preschool – first
grade students and they are
open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30
For all of the immersion
schools, they are successful
At New Zealand,
little children were
Maori with each
other and with their caretakers.
School children wrote poems
in Maori after
us into their school. While
we were visiting the daycares
we were asked
not to speak
The Native Hawaiians
(concerned parents and teachers) have
work with the
to open their
and then later
their Hawaiian immersion
schools. Helen B. Slaughter
a case study
on "Kula Kaiapuni Hawai'i",
an effort for Hawaiian Native
She describes how parents
and some Hawaiian-language
gained support from the legislature
in Hawaii to open their own
schools. In speaking with
the Inupiaq language teachers
from Nikaitchuat, the parents
that have made
a difference for their success.
While speaking to us during
Academy for Culturally Responsive
Schools, the head teacher
Polly Schaffer of Nikaitchuat
mentioned, "It seemed
really easy with concerned
parents working right alongside
In the immersion
schools though, teaching
other teaching materials
in the Native language
as there are
in the mainstream society.
They have to develop their
Stiles said, "The need
for written teaching materials
is a common problem for these
programs. Textbook companies
do not make, as a rule, textbooks
for a few thousand children
obscure language" (1997,
p.154). However, if there
is funding available, using
today's technology they can
readily develop their own.
I have certainly learned
from these other indigenous
an extensive writing
on the Maori in
his book, "Reversing
Language Shift" since
they have established reversing
their language loss to revitalization.
It all of the cases, it is
parent involvement that makes
difference. Just as MacLean
mentions that we as parents
need to be involved in the
education of our children.
King Island Inupiaq today
is in much the same situation
in 1984. The
history has much
and the steps they took,
staff at Nikaitchuat Ilisaġviat
the step my community needs
to begin taking.
are needed so young people
can listen to them to begin
so they can say them to their
and Intervention of Indigenous
It became clear
to me that I needed to illustrate the
notice that there
is a gap
of fluent speakers to that
of the youngest children
within the community.
gap began happening
with the children
born in the 1960's to 1970's.
King Island people were
forced to move to Nome in the mid
The Bureau of Indian Affairs
closed the school and so
school age children
had to stay in Nome to
have their children educated.
many social ills for the
the loss of language to
English. This final
portion of the literature
review discusses that loss
interventions can be used
to revitalize our
a rough estimate count
of King Island Inupiaq
I was fortunate
list of the
membership. I began this
search by first interviewing
that were raised
Island. They are
in their middle
fifties to sixties now.
My older niece, Marie Omiak
and her husband
which were thirty-seven
age group. With an estimate
number in mind, it clearly
benefit from the lessons
The age groups begin with
the oldest living King
Islanders and I broke the
ages into ten-year
for the age
group 0-15 years.
are explained on the bottom
of the table.
shows the situation of
King Island language
and how we
Fishman's Graded Intergenerational
||King Island Inupiaq Speaker Population. Unofficial count by ten-year
Estimate numbers taken
from the King Island
added which were
not on the list.
They may be
enrolled at another Native
Ages in ten-year generations – Speakers/Total
- There are total of 530 King Island people (full blooded – 1/4)
counted. 98 people are fluent speakers. The youngest speaker
is about 49 years old.
31 people are "slightly fluent" which means they can
understand the language but usually answer in English.
48 people use "limited words" which means they mix Inupiaq and English
when they speak and can respond in some of the everyday language. (i.e. "imiq- "to
drink" + ing – English ending = "Imiq-ing" – to
16 people only know "common expressions": i.e. alapaa "brrr";
azitnaa "oh no!"
- 337 do not speak the Inupiaq language. 154 young people and children
do not understand at all.
King Island Language Timeline
The following table is
a timeline showing
important events for
and their language,
which gives a
history of our
how long it
has survived due
to its isolation.
It gives a picture
how much longer King
survived even while
the people moved away from
on loss of indigenous language.
||Timeline of King Island Inupiaq, much
of the information from Renner, "Pioneer
Missionary to the Bering Strait Eskimos: Bellarmine Lafortune, S.J.
Only Inupiaq spoken by all persons with a few Russian loan words. Trade
with the Chukchi and Yupik people. Functional items have names from the
Russian language. i.e.
||Gold rush in Nome attracts many Native groups from the region in their
large umiaks or skinboats." (pg 14) and many English speakers
||Fr. Lafortune arrives in Nome and begins evangelizing the Natives while
learning the Inupiaq language.
||King Island and Diomede Native are still "pagans".
||Fr. Lafortune is now a fluent speaker of Inupiaq. The Natives name him "Ataataziuraq" literally
meaning "the little Father", but used as an endearment name,
shown with respect.
||There are 60 Catholics about 50% of the population on King Island but
no school yet. (According to Lafortune in a letter to Bishop Crimont).
||June, Lafortune's first visit to King Island for eight days. All the
people on the island are baptized Catholic.
||Lafortune establishes mission on King Island, and a government school
is built. The first teacher is a Native teacher from Wales, Arthur Nagozruk,
Sr. a Protestant. (Renner, p. 76) "Mr. Nagozruk spoke in English to
the students at school but when the students didn't understand him, he
would switch to Inupiaq." (Phone dialogue with elder Helen Pushruk).
Inupiaq language is spoken outside of the school and church probably because
both the Jesuit priest and the schoolteacher spoke Inupiaq!
||1947 Lafortune dies, a gradual movement to Nome begins with each year.
Population on King Island fluctuates in these years:
1950 – 141 people
1953 – 130
1955 – 99
1956 – 76
1957 – 101
1958 – 115
1959 – 62
||School closes for a year.
||School closes permanently due to low number of students, the difficulty
of finding teachers, the extreme isolation and hardship, plus a rockslide
||62 people return to the island. By April Fr. George E. Carroll closes
the mission. On the east end of Nome, where the King Islanders settle,
Inupiaq language is still the primary language. Children enter school at
Nome Public Schools speaking only in Inupiaq. English is learned without
special programs to help them.
||Children learn their parents' English (village English). Less Inupiaq
is spoken, but most can understand it.
||Bilingual and Bicultural Education Law is adopted in Alaska. Nome Public
Schools implements their program to teach 3 dialects of Inupiaq and St.
||Young people speak more English than Inupiaq and most of who can't understand
||No children speak Inupiaq. Young parents know only limited expressions.
||Young people can do traditional dancing, sew parkas, go hunting, picks
berries and greens, butcher seals, prepare dried meat and fish for winter
consumption but they cannot understand nor speak Inupiaq fluently.
By the 1980's
young teens were
to but they responded
by the 90's was
table is a
He uses a metaphor
of a Richter
scale for earthquakes
to show the
scale of language
a Richter scale
a higher number,
number in GIDS,
the more language
|Stage 8 –
||Only a few elders speak the language. There needs to be a thorough relearning
of the language.
|Stage 7 –
||Adults beyond childbearing years can speak the language. The older adults
need to reconnect with younger generations to pass on the language.
|Stage 6 –
||Intergenerational informal speakers, young people waiting to create their
|Stage 5 –
||People in the community speak the language and literacy is alive.
|Stage 4 –
||Language is in the schools. Immersion education is present.
|Stage 3 –
||Language is used in the work area, and community (lower work sphere).
|Stage 2 –
||Lower governmental services and mass media but not in higher sphere.
|Stage 1 –
||Language is spoken in some higher level educational occupations, government
and the media.
scale is between
stages 7 and
6. We have
31 people are "partial
They can understand
the time but
back in fluent
brings us to
for a booklet,
called the "Revitalizing
the Fifth Annual
stages of language
work on language
|Stage 8 –
||Implement Hinton's (1994) "Language Apprentice" Model
where fluent elders are teamed one-on-one with young adults who want to
learn the language. Telephones can be use where elders are dispersed.
|Stage 7 –
||Establish "Language Nests" after the Maori and
Hawaiian models where fluent older adults provide pre-school childcare
where they are immersed in their indigenous language.
|Stage 6 –
||Develop places in community where language is encouraged,
protected, and used exclusively. Encourage more young parents to speak
the indigenous language in home with and around their young children.
|Stage 5 –
||Offer literacy in Native language. Promote voluntary programs
in the schools and other community institutions to improve the prestige
and use of the language. Use language in local government functions, especially
social services. Give recognition to special local efforts through awards,
|Stage 4 –
||Improve instructional methods using Total Physical Response
(TPR) and other immersion teaching practices. Teach reading and writing
for higher-level language skills. Develop a two-way bilingual program where
non-speaking elementary students learn the indigenous language and speakers
learn a national or inter-national language. Textbooks would need to be
developed to teach the indigenous language.
|Stage 3 –
||Use the language at work throughout the community. Develop
vocabulary so that workers in an office could speak in their indigenous
|Stage 2 –
||Promote use of written form of language for government and
business dealings/records. Promote indigenous language newsletters, newspapers,
radio stations, and television
|Stage 1 –
||Tribal colleges can teach their subjects in the language.
Create and develop indigenous language oral and written literature using
dramatic presentations and publications. Give awards for indigenous language
publications and other notable efforts to promote indigenous languages.
For my community,
7 and 8
for our language
would also benefit
them to try speaking
is at the
Your Language?" in
is at the
we as parents
spoke in "baby
his question "What
your language?" in
and culture. "A
as I was
of a community
called, "gemeinschaft." People
is a sense
I was driving
to do something
I am today!)
is a gift
it is hard,
is so much
as in starting
and spontaneous" language
to be created
of speakers" though,
to do them" (Fishman,
and after school?" (p.
8). I can
me at a
if I would
if two generations
Fishman says about
would be lost,
we would lose
can begin making
along with the
excited for an
lived on King
me, we need
was a Traditional
how to cut
time to go
berries. By fall
winter! The heritage
TABLE OF CONTENTS