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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
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Yup'ik RavenOur Language Our Souls:

The Yup'ik bilingual curriculum of the
Lower Kuskokwim School District: A continuing success story.

Edited by Delena Norris-Tull, University of Alaska Fairbanks,
School of Education, Fairbanks, Alaska
copyright 1999

Chapter 9
Yup'ik Discipline Practices Inerquutet and Alerquutet To Implement Into Yup'ik Schools
By Theresa Arevgaq John
Anchorage, Alaska
Copyright 1998

The Yup'ik people in Kuskokwim Delta have practiced the traditional methods of discipline they learned from their ancestors. They called them alerquutet and inerquutet. Later on in this paper, I will give more detailed examples to show how these inseparable terms function. I firmly believe that they could be applicable and useful practices in Yup'ik classrooms today.

The definitions of these two Yup'ik terms cannot be easily translated into English because they each hold multiple factors and elements of child rearing. Although they cannot be simply defined in English terms, Yup'ik people know them and understand them because they are an intricate part of their lives. The term alerquutet refers to the "do's" in personal characteristics. Whereas, the second term, inerquutet refers to the "don'ts". The two Yup'ik words naturally are inseparable.

The set of values and behavioral rules applies directly as a guide to parental responsibilities as caretakers of children. Our Yup'ik way of teaching reflects our Yup'ik way of viewing the world. It is an inclusive and holistic approach.

The combination of inerquutet and alerquutet have been successfully taught and practiced in our daily lives for generations.

When I was a child, we were taught to listen to our parents' and grandparents' alerquutait and inerquutait. We lived in small communities mainly depending on hunting and gathering of land and sea resources. Every family member was taught to believe or ukveq. This meant to believe in all the teachings and values that have been described and brought to our attention. All the alerquutait and inerquutait reflected upon importance of surviving as a subsisting family and community. The expected behavior patterns were defined and described vividly to each child. The roles of the teachers were instilled within all children and community members, so we fully understood the fact that we were to follow all the basic behavioral norms they taught us. These behavioral norms were characteristics of a normal, peaceful social environment. Above all the two absolutely most important behavioral norms were to love and respect all people.

Our Elders say, "When a parent, elder or a community member loves a child or a person, make certain the child or person clearly understands the alerquutet and inerquutet in our lives." This saying came from my grandmother and all concerned master teachers in my village. It would not matter if they were your uncle, aunt, grandparent, brother, or sister. Our belief was all children must be taught appropriately so they would have a clear understanding about harmonious lifestyle. When we say, "Kenkekuvciki" or "if you love them" we mean a parent or a caretaker will guide the children by providing instruction in the needed skills for the child to differentiate between right and wrong behavior patterns.

During my era, the Elders played a major role in my village. We regarded them as the key holders of all the knowledge and wisdom. They had lived the life already, so we knew and understood that they were qualified to teach us quality information. We were responsible as children to look for any opportunity to learn. Meal hours were teaching hours when all family members gathered in one place and at one time. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were opportune times for Elders to explain and give relevant incidents from which we learned. They presented their knowledge and wisdom in many and various ways. Some were presented in story forms with lessons and morals, or by shared personal incidents or by using examples of their current situation. The opening phrases they used were like, "Tang qanrutlallrukaitkut,"...meaning "you see they would tell us....", perhaps putting the context into an understandable form. Yup'ik people believe that human learning is a lifelong experience. So everyone would listen together no matter how old or young they were. The traditional cultural values and norms were never to be questioned but to be practiced daily.

Frank Andrew Sr. (Miisaq) was born in the Lower Kuskokwim region and now resides in the village of Kwigillingok. Mr. Andrew has participated in the summer institute since it began. He is a quiet, humble, patient man full of wisdom and knowledge of the traditional cultural values. Mr. Andrew said that parents are the first teachers of their children (June 11, l997 Summer Institute). Moreover, the timing for teaching a child behavior practices is crucial. The parents are responsible for raising their children with caution, love and care. He explained and defined more deeply what he meant by saying, in Yup'ik:

"A parent must know and understand the growth pattern of every child. They must know when the child's learning abilities are developing. The parents are the first teachers of a child because they are the first people the child sees when they "ellangeq" or "become aware or conscious." Parents must understand that a child is easy to teach especially during the first phases of their development "elicukarallratni." This is the time when parents must teach their children appropriate human behavior patterns. The parents model positive, normal social behavioral patterns in front of the children. DO NOT WAIT FOR A LATER TIME OR YOU WILL BE TOO LATE. If you procrastinate, you are setting yourself up for hard times. Once a child has developed certain characteristics and attributes by a certain age, they are much harder to change. Teach them while they are young and are able to believe everything that you tell them." (l998, LKSD Summer institute).

Parents are responsible for modeling and giving their children instruction on appropriate social behavior. Mr. Andrew's advice to parents was to avoid exhibiting bad habits the parents might hold. Such acts as physically hitting a child, or scolding with a raised voice will lead a child in the wrong direction (l997, LKSD Summer Institute). Parents are role models and they must be cautious of how they act in front of their children.

Further, Frank Andrew and other Elders defined some Yup'ik terms that are important in raising a good village child. Yup'ik terminology is important in child rearing. Terms for the values children must learn, understand and practice include the following:

Niisngayaaraq: "an attribute of a person or a child that listens and abides by all inerquutet and alerquutet."

Qigcikiiyaraq: "showing a high level of respect to values, people or things. Knowing and understanding all the inerquutet and alerquutet."

Maligtaqucaraq: "An act of abiding by the rules and directions"

Ellam yua: "Creator of people, animals and earth; God"

Tangvagluni elicugngauq yuk: "A person can learn by observation"

Kenkekuvciki elitnaurciqaci ilaci: "You will show your love by teaching"

Kangiingevkarluki: "Make them understand; clarify and exemplify"

Ilaliurucaaraq: "An act of friendliness, being sociable.Understanding and knowing how to interact appropriately with others. Understanding the functions of family trees, relationship terms, rules of relationships; example, rules between uncles with nieces and nephews, grandparents with grandchildren, and cross and parallel cousins."

Elisengaarit: "Their knowledge and wisdom, expertise"

Tegganret: "Respected Elders" or "Elders"

Nutemllat: "Authentic Yup'ik ways in life, very own"

Tariingevkarluki cali-llu maligtaquvkarluki tamalkuita alerquutet, inerquutet-llu: Assurance of children; knowing, understanding, and practicing of alerquutet and inerquutet. (l997 Summer Institute)

Julia Paul (Ikatak), a Yup'ik elder participated in the LKSD Bilingual Curriculum Summer Institute for the first time in 1998. Julia is from the village of Kipnuk, a strong Moravian village. Julia is always smiling; her face folds together full of joy and friendliness as she approaches people. She is a grandmother to many grandchildren in the village and she firmly believes in teaching traditional cultural values to all children. Julia admitted that she was afraid to be part of the institute because she had never been invited to an event this large before. One evening, as we chatted in our dorm room, she expressed to me that she wasn't comfortable and her self-confidence was low. I told her that she would be contributing valuable information by sharing her personal teachings and whatever she shares would be enough and useable. Julia smiled and felt better.

Julia was married in a traditional way, by arranged marriage. She was raised in an authentic Yup'ik way and her experiences originated from untainted genuine parents. Her way of upbringing can assist us to understand real Yup'ik perspectives from her Yup'ik philosophies and experiences. Like Mr. Andrew said, she concurred that parents are the first teachers of children. A child is directed into life following the ways of the parents who lead him/her. If they lie to a child, then the child will lie as well. She said, "if a man hits a child, a child will also think it is okay to hit other children " (l998. LKSD Summer Institute).

Mr. Nick Lupie, "Ackiar," a teasing cousin of Frank Andrew, is 77 years old and from the village of Tuntutuliak on the Kuskokwim River. Nick addresses alerquutet and inerquutet as being true traditional cultural values. They must be taught, learned and obeyed. When Mr. Lupie talked about how you talk to a child, he described it by saying,

" If a parent screams at a child, that child will learn and believe that it is the way to interact and respond. A child who hears people scream continuously will begin to assume that screaming is okay and will respond only to screaming. They will learn to wait for that tone of voice before they respond. A soft, low voice for them would not be a norm anymore. A parent may try to ask a child to do a favor for him/her in a lower voice, except the problem is a child has already learned to respond to screaming level. Once a child has learned this behavior, they will have already developed that discipline behavior pattern and will only respond to those that scream at them. Ultimately, the advice would be: DO NOT SCREAM AT CHILDREN. Talk to the children in a normal tone of voice even if you feel that whatever you want from them is urgent. Be patient and you will have an easier time when they have acquired the correct behavior patterns to listening. Children learn to listen by observing the parents' behavior patterns. (l998, LKSD Summer Institute)

Mr. Lupie also advised the parents to avoid spoiling their children. He pointed out that when a child gets everything they want in life, they will develop that pattern in life. Certainly, a parent should give a child what they need and some things they want but they should not respond to get everything they want. Rather parents should give them what they need, not too much, not too little. A parent who gives all the needs to the children will train a child to expect a response to all requests. Children will expect to be listened to constantly if this child rearing behavior pattern is practiced. DON'T GIVE THEM EVERYTHING THEY ASK FOR. Ask them to wait for another time or say "no" to them once in a while. (l998 Summer Institute).

Now as I have promised earlier, I will give more detailed examples which were provided by Elders and Native educators to show how these inseparable terms inerquutet and alerquutet function.

In l997 summer institute the Elders focused on how they inerquuriq and alerquuriq to the children. Mr. Frank Andrew has been selected to participate at school in dealing with children that have discipline problems.

"In disciplining a child, it is important to have the parents physically present in order for a child to listen and to follow school rules. If I was a child and my parents were not around, I would probably not listen to the teacher. But if my parents were there, I would be aware and cautious of how I act in front of them, because my parents have rules with consequences that I am supposed to follow. Naturally, I would behave accordingly in their presence. When the child is aware of the consequences of their misbehavior, then they are liable to listen and behave properly. It is parents' responsibility to make rules with consequences...It is good to have the parents present in school when the child is being counseled. To me that was the best method."

Mr. Andrew addressed the importance of teaching a child how to act and to have the knowledge to understand the consequences of the inerquutet and alerquutet. The combination of alerquutet and inerquutet would therefore, be inseparable.

Mr. Nick Lupie shared a story of how he handled a problem child in his village. He believes that a child should not be corrected in front of other children. Mr. Lupie took a child out hunting in tundra. When they were alone he sat down and counseled a child. He described to the child the wrong things he did (don'ts) and gave him advice of how he could improve his bad behaviors (do's). The child took the advice and slowly improved his behavior after that confrontation. Today, that child does not have any notable problems. To him the change of place and the approach he took was an effective way to correct a child (l998, LKSD Summer Institute).

Ruth Igkurak, an elder from Kwigillingok, shared her own experience of how she inerquq and alerquq children.

"In the morning before the children go to school, I clearly describe to them how they could have good behavior in their classroom. To carefully listen to the teacher...obey the tasks that are quiet and be attentive to the teacher. Each day I talk to the children and when they come home I ask them "How did you behave in school today?" "Did you behave well?" And then they would reply "yes"...My son's teacher told me that my boy is very quiet, attentive and responds to all tasks given to him and that he was not like the other children ...The child's well being and behavior is very important early in the morning. The characteristics they experienced in the morning will be carried on throughout their daily activities. The children will maintain that initial characteristic or attitude they experienced earlier. If they started off with a bad behavior, they will bring that into classrooms and maybe even get worse" (l997 Summer Institute).

Parents must integrate inerquutet and alerquutet so the children get acquainted with them. Traditionally, our parents were very strict with us. We tried our best to meet the high Yup'ik standards in our daily lives.

Ruth also mentioned the fact that it was okay to be criticized by others on the quality of work a person has made or on the quality of life we live. There is a valuable lesson to that. A bad criticism will have a meaningful impact on the person. It will make them think of how they can improve the quality of their work or how they perform in life. The purpose of criticism is to instigate positive changes; artistically and constructively in our social lives.

Mr. Kenneth Egkurak, l997 Summer Institute Elder, stated that the children who are constantly taught alerquutet and inerquutet have successful lives. In our Yup'ik ways, we have to retell many inerquutet and alerquutet to a point where a person internalizes them and integrates the values and principles into daily lives. Each person is different. A child who understands the right and wrong behavior patterns clearly would not be affected by the troubled children in classrooms.

Mr. Egkurak stated that it would be beneficial to educate young parents about good child rearing skills. Schools should implement training in values of how to raise well-disciplined children at home. "If a child had a good upbringing they would not misbehave in life (l997, LKSD Summer Institute). An undisciplined child distracts from quality education for all children. It would be beneficial to resolve any disturbances and distractions in classes immediately so productive education can take place.

Mr. Egkurak commented that the lack of parental involvement in the schools is a problem. Since it's parents' responsibility to discipline their children, they should be active participants in schools for the sake of their children. He urges local school sites to come up with a plan to correct discipline problems by incorporating Yup'ik inerquutet and alerquutet to improve the quality of education in all villages.

The Elders have described some evidence of where the inerquutet and alerquutet coincide in promoting quality discipline methods.

The two professional Yup'ik teachers that I interviewed shared how they have used some of the Yup'ik discipline practices successfully in their classes. Sophie Shield, an immersion teacher at Mikelnguut Elitnaurviat in Bethel, and Dora Strunk, currently teaching in her village of Quinhagak, described their classroom experiences.

Aangaarraaq (Sophie) told how she internalized the Yup'ik discipline practices in her classroom. She found that these practices had a positive affect on her small children. She applied the inerquutet and alerquutet her mother taught her. Sophie admitted that she does not always remember to incorporate umyuaqerrlainayuinaki, the values, but they are definitely useful when needed. She remembers the appropriate skills to handle problematic situations in teaching good behavior patterns to the children: "Tekiartelartut, I experience flashbacks of my mother teaching me Yup'ik proper behaviors, then I use these in my classes." The lessons she learned from her mother assisted her to effectively handle problem situations.

She feels that the parents that come from broken homes need to learn from Elders the Yup'ik ways to discipline children. She has an elder that comes to work with the children in her class and that has great impact on the children's behavior. Sophie said the children become quiet nepairtelartut when Elders are present. She recommended that Elders become an intricate part of education. Elders program involvement needs to be developed into all school activities, including cultural heritage and even social studies. Sophie feels that the incorporation of the Yup'ik discipline practices into the LKSD policy would "very definitely" benefit the schools. The inerquutet and alerquutet should become part of LKSD to educate new and old teachers (Interview 6/12/98, Summer Institute).

Dora Strunk also supports the implementation of the Yup'ik discipline practices (alerquutet and inerquutet) into Yup'ik schools. Quinhagak school already began the process of incorporating them at their site. Dora says they are relevant, successful and beneficial to all Yup'ik students. She pointed out those children who speak Yup'ik as their first language have difficulties learning in English because the new language is irrelevant to them. Unnatural. But when they practice yugtun the students respond a lot better. Maniigirraartelluki, qanrulluki irniaqellriacetun. Her advice is to calm them down, instruct them like you would teach your own child and then teach them about proper behavioral changes. The Yup'ik discipline method in her opinion is very effective on Yup'ik children. In Quinhagak, they utilize the Yup'ik method first on the stubborn children and if that doesn't work, then they revert to the non-native discipline method.

Dora feels that the two discipline methods, Yup'ik and non-native should be merged together and adopted by LKSD policy. Elders teach them good examples of using the Yup'ik approach, waten yuum pikaaten, waten piciiquten. The Yup'ik principal naturally implements the Yup'ik discipline practices into Quinhagak school. In their classrooms, the Yup'ik discipline practices are clearly defined and understood by all involved: teachers, students, parents and all staff. There are a set of separate rules for elementary and high school levels. They have localized them after viewing the Bethel High School discipline plan with full support of their local school board members. In this way the community as a whole feels the "ownership" of their school and it is really good. They are continuously revising them by making appropriate changes. Elkarcimariluteng assirluteng, the Yup'ik discipline plans are fully developed, after careful evaluation and planning which Dora feels is a big accomplishment. They are filed with social workers. All staff members collaborate to ensure that their plan is successful. The staff convenes to come up with effective ways to handle unique situations when severe discipline problems occur.

In conclusion, I have described how the Yup'ik inerquutet and alerquutet have been practiced by the people of the Kuskokwim Delta region. The Elders assisted by identifying the traditional Yup'ik discipline practices they believe should be incorporated into Yup'ik schools. It is a tremendous task to teach children the common knowledge and skills of how to become a good citizen. They perform and respond best to the knowledge and teachings that are relevant to their culture. The Yup'ik inerquutet and alerquutet would greatly benefit Kuskokwim Delta Schools as Elders and Native educators expressed. Cecelia Martz's presentation on Y/Cuuyaraq should become the pledge of all Yup'ik schools. Lets all strive to collaborate our efforts as teachers, parents, staff, students and community to provide quality education for all children by adopting the Yup'ik inerquutet and alerquutet.



Andrew, Frank Sr. (Elder Interview, June 11, l997) 1997 LKSD Bilingual and Multicultural Summer Institute, Bethel, Kuskokwim Campus.

Andrew, Frank Sr. (Elder Interview June 9, l998) 1998 LKSD Bilingual and Curriculum Summer Institute, Bethel, Kuskokwim Campus.

Handout, 5-12 Yup'ik Maintenance Development Group, Unit 14. Man and Man. High School Yup'ik 10-12 lesson on sub-theme Parent and Family. 1997 LKSD Bilingual and Multicultural Summer Institute, Bethel, Kuskokwim Campus.

Handout, 5-12 Yup'ik Maintenance Curriculum Development Group. Cultural Beliefs: Do's and Don'ts, Qanruyutet/Yaggyarat for seventh grade. l998 LKSD Bilingual and Curriculum Summer Institute, Bethel, Kuskokwim Campus.

Igkurak, Ruth. (Elder Interview June 12, l997.) 1997 LKSD Bilingual and Multicultural Summer Institute, Bethel, Kuskokwim Campus.

Igkurak, Kenneth. (Elder Interview June 12, l997.) 1997 LKSD Bilingual and Multicultural Summer Institute, Bethel, Kuskokwim Campus.

Lupie, Nick. (Elder Interview June 9, l998.) 1998 LKSD Bilingual and Curriculum Summer Institute, Bethel, Kuskokwim Campus

Lupie, Nick.(Elder Interview June 12, l997.) 1997 LKSD Bilingual and Multicultural Summer Institute l997, Bethel, Kuskokwim Campus.

Martz, Cecelia. Presentation on Y/Cuuyaraq Poster, June 15, l998 LKSD Bilingual and Curriculum Summer Institute, Bethel, Kuskokwim Campus.

Paul, Julia. (Elder Interview June 9, l998.) 1998 LKSD Bilingual and Curriculum Summer Institute, Bethel, Kuskokwim Campus.

Shield, Sophie. (Interview June 12, l998.) 1998 LKSD Bilingual and Curriculum Summer Institute, Bethel, Kuskokwim Campus.

Strunk, Dora (Teacher Interview, June 11, l998.) 1998 LKSD Bilingual and Curriculum Institute, Bethel, Kuskokwim Campus.


Table of Contents

  • Introduction to the Kuskokwim Delta - Delena Norris-Tull
  • Introduction to the Yup'ik Language and Culture Programs of the Lower Kuskokwim School District - Delena Norris-Tull & Beverly Williams
  • Chapter 1: The Yup'ik First Language Program: Lower Kuskokwim School District - Mary Lou Beaver & Evon Azean, Sr.
  • Chapter 2: The Balanced Literacy Program in Yup'ik - Pamela Yancey & Sophie Shield
  • Chapter 3: Creating Yup'ik Books, Translating, & Orthography - Pamela Yancey & Sophie Shield
  • Chapter 4: Ayaprun Immersion School - Loddie Ayaprun Jones
  • Chapter 5: Analysis of the Yup'ik Immersion Program In Bethel - Agatha Panigkaq John-Shields
  • Chapter 6: Yup'ik Language and Culture: A Description and Analytical View of the 4-6 Yup'ik Thematic Unit - Dora E. Strunk
  • Chapter 7: K-3 Thematic Units and the Alaska Cultural Standards - Nita Yurrliq Rearden
  • Chapter 8: Yup'ik Language and Culture: A Description of the 5th-12th Yup'ik Curriculum and its Revision - Rosalie Lincoln
  • Chapter 9: Yup'ik Discipline Practices Inerquutet and Alerquutet To Implement Into Yup'ik Schools - Theresa Arevgaq John
  • Chapter 10: Recommendations for Yup'ik Curriculum at Lower Kuskokwim School District - Sally Casey

email the editor, D. Norris-Tull


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Last modified August 18, 2006