Polar People

June 25, 2009 at 8:11 am | Posted in arctic, Demographics, Maps, Research | 2 Comments
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The North and the circumpolar regions, above 60º latitude, are considered to be one of the less populated areas of the world. This map shows the last numbers on that, distributed by country and organized by percentatge. This is published in Arctic Pollution Issues. A State of the Arctic Environment Report. Stefansson Arctic Institute, 2004. Arctic Human Development Report, and the map was created by Hugo Ahlenius, UNEP/GRID-Arendal.

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Some tiding up

October 1, 2008 at 3:32 am | Posted in Chatting, Naming | Leave a comment
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When I started this blog more than six months ago my knowledge of Arctic peoples was weak, very weak. I was starting almost from zero, so the firsts posts where uncertain and maybe a bit vague, not to mention I categorized and tagged them intuitively, without a previous planning. This lead to a bit of chaos in the categories system, which I have just tried to partially solve. I have been reorganizing the categories for the location of the information.

There were two evident problems:

1) A mixed system was used, with some categories (Innu, Na-Dene), referring to tribes or ethnicities and another ones (Scandinavia, Alaska) referring to geographical places.
2) The categories for the places where not well-established, coexisting denominations such as Russia/Siberia, or Scandinavia/Sápmi which refer to similar places.

So some decisions where made, and now the new categories to locate the entries are the following:

Alaska, Canada, Greenland Scandinavia, Siberia, Japan

Of course, this system has problems. In some cases it existed a decision to be made between the native name (Sápmi instead of Scandinavia for the Saamis, or Kalaallit Nunaat for Greenland) and the general or English one. Though n those cases my personal preference and tendency is to use the native name, I finally opted for the general name in order to keep the blog usable and accessible to more people.

My decision for avoiding the tribe or ethnicities name is because for me it is very difficult to create a closed list right now. Furthermore, the number of categories would be too high, making more difficult the navigation through the blog. The name of the tribes has been used when tagging, so it should not by difficult to find it anyway.

Of course good-intentioned criticism is always welcomed, as the list is like a trial for next months.

Photo by curiousyellow under Creative Commons

Aleutians East Borough

September 20, 2008 at 6:32 pm | Posted in Alaska, Community, History | Leave a comment
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I found by chance a website about some Aleutian villages in Alaska, called the Aleutians East Borough. They have a lot of municipal (school, jobs, the pipeline…) and economical information, as well as some historical facts that I resumed here:

Aleutians East Borough

Akutan, Cold Bay, False Pass, King Cove, Nelson Lagoon, Sand Point

Stretching from the tip of the Alaska Peninsula to the easternmost Aleutian Islands, the Aleutians East Borough is like no other place on earth.This is a wild, dramatic region bordered on one side by the North Pacific Ocean and the other by the Bering Sea. It has been home to generations of Aleut families since the Second Ice Age.Today, the region is renowned for its breathtaking beauty, warm, generous people and the rich diversity of seafood found in the waters around it.



The History of Akutan

Akutan churchAkutan was formed in 1878 when a number of Aleut families from surrounding islands established a village at this location. The Russian Orthodox Church supported this move and constructed a church at the site. Western Fur and Trading Co. built a fur storage and trading post, and its resident agent started a cod fishing business in the village. In 1912 the Pacific Whaling Company built a processing station, which operated until 1939.

Akutan’s proximity to the Bering Sea fishing grounds brought the crab and fish processing industry to the community in the late 40s, at first through the operation of floating processors, followed in the early 1980s by construction of a shore-based processing plant owned by Trident Seafoods.

The History Of Cold Bay

The Cold Bay area, near the southern edge of the Bering Land Bridge, probably played an important role in the migration of Asiatic people to North America during the last Ice Age. Recent archeological surveys have found the presence of numerous ancient refuse heaps, which suggest large populations of Native Aleut people at one time inhabited the area.During the coastal explorations by Europeans, Russian ships wintered in Bechevin Bay, about 40 miles west of Cold Bay. Count Feodor Lutke bestowed the name “Izembek” on the region in 1827 in honor of Karl Izembek, the surgeon aboard the sloop “Moller”. During the 1800s and early 1900s, subsistence hunters and trappers visited Cold Bay.The Japanese invasion of the Aleutians Islands during World War II stimulated the rapid construction of a series of American strategic bases. One of them was Fort Randall, a large air base built on the shores of Cold Bay in 1942. At the height of the Aleutian campaign, thousands of troops were stationed at Fort Randall. The base was abandoned after the end of the war, but the landscape still bears witness to its military history in the form of a myriad of roads, historical sites and, most importantly, its airport runways.

History of False Pass

False Pass man The Aleut name for the community is “Isanax,” which means “The Pass.” Shallow waters and the narrowness of the channel caused the village and strait to be called False Pass, but it is indeed a major throughway between the North Pacific and the Bering Sea for all but the largest vessels.

Originally homesteaded by William Gardner in the early 1900’s, the village began to grow when P.E. Harris established the first seafood cannery in False Pass in 1917. Many of the original buildings came from a cannery that was abandoned in Morzhovoi Bay, about 30 miles away. Natives immigrated from Morzhovoi, Sanak Island and Ikatan when the cannery was built. A post office was established in 1921. The cannery operated continuously, except for 1973 – 1976, when two hard winters depleted fish resources. It was eventually purchased by Peter Pan Seafoods and dominated the economy of the town for decades.

In 1981 most of the plant was consumed in a huge fire, although some buildings and facilities remain. Peter Pan still plays a vital role in the community with its private dock, fuel sales, and store. For more than 20 years the False Pass Tribal Council governed the community. Now a second class city, False Pass incorporated in 1990.

King Cove Description and History

The first recorded settler at the cove was a man named Robert King, who lived there in the 1880s. In 1911, Pacific American Fisheries built a large cannery and employed Aleut and other Native peoples, Asian workers, and Scandinavian workers. Many Native people came from the villages of Belkofski, Sanak and False Pass. The community incorporated as a first class city in 1947. Peter Pan Seafoods is the successor to PAF. The cannery has been operating since 1911 (it burned in the 1970s but was immediately rebuilt). It is the largest salmon cannery in North America and also processes crab, bottom fish, herring, and other fish year round. A dozen traditional use hunting and trapping camps have been noted around the shores of Cold Bay and Kinzarof Lagoon, dating from the first half of the twentieth century.

History of Sand Point

Sand Point was officially settled in 1887. The Lynde and Hough Company of San Francisco set up a supply station and cod fishing station on Humboldt Harbor. The town that grew up around this station adopted the name Sand Point. Aleuts from surrounding villages and Scandinavian fishermen were the first residents of the community. These influences can still be seen in the names and faces of Sand Point residents

Sand Point served as a repair and supply center for gold mining during the early 1900’s, but fish processing became the dominant activity in the 1930’s. The St. Nicholas Chapel, a Russian Orthodox church, was built in 1933 and is now on the National Register of Historical Places.

Michael Krauss and the Eyak language

September 4, 2008 at 4:45 pm | Posted in Alaska, Language | Leave a comment
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Michael E. Krauss (born 1934) is a linguist who has worked extensively on the Na-Dené language family, especially on proto-Athabaskan, pre-proto-Athabaskan, the Eyak language, which became extinct in January 2008, and also numerous other Athabaskan and Eskimo-Aleut languages.

With his 1991 address to the Linguistic Society of America, Krauss was among the first to create an awareness of the global problem of endangered languages. He has since worked to encourage the documentation and re-vitalization of endangered languages across the world.

Krauss, professor emeritus, joined the faculty of the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1960 and served as director of the Alaska Native Language Center from its inception in 1972 until his retirement in June 2000. He remains active in efforts to document Alaska’s Native languages and encouraged awareness of the global problem of endangered languages.

Krauss’ largest contribution to language documentation is his work on Eyak, conducted through much of the 1960s. Eyak was then already the most endangered of the Alaskan languages, and Krauss’ work is all the more notable considering that it represents what today might be considered salvage linguistics. While some Eyak data had been previously available, they were overlooked by previous scholars, including Edward Sapir. However, Eyak proved to be a crucial missing link for historical linguistics, being equally closely related to neighboring Ahtna and to distant Navajo. With good Eyak data it became possible to establish the existence of the Athabaskan-Eyak-Tlingit language family, though phonological evidence for links to Haida remained at the time elusive. Further, the system of vowel modifications present in Eyak inspired Krauss’ theory of Athabaskan tonogenesis, whereby tone develops from vowel constriction.

Font: Wikipedia

Odyssée Sibérienne and others

August 21, 2008 at 9:49 pm | Posted in Alaska, Scandinavia, Siberia, travel | Leave a comment
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I found my hero! I found a the website of Nicolas Varnier, a French guy who travels the North with a dog sledge! Wow! He has an interesting website, though it is in French. I am quite able to read it but too lazy  to translate it… Anyway you can take a look at it if you want. Wannabe that guy!

Nicolas Varnier

From all his expeditions, my favorite ones are l’Odyssée Sibérienne, l’Odyssée Blanche and the Translaponie:

Translaponie (Hiver 88- 89) de Kiruna à Mourmansk, 1000 km. Le Grand Nord Lapon a été le premier Grand Nord de Nicolas. Il s’y est rendu pour la première fois à l’age de dix-sept ans pour une longue randonnée à pied dans les vastes espaces sauvages du nord de la Finlande. Accessible depuis la gare du Nord de Paris, la Laponie était aussi le seul grand Nord adapté au petit budget qu’un étudiant sans le sous pouvait économiser et consacrer à cela. [Read more]

L’odyssée blanche (1999): depuis Skagway à Québec, 8600 Kilomètres. À l’origine de ce nouveau défi que Nicolas Vanier se lance à lui-même : son attelage, il est au top de sa forme . Formidables coureurs des neiges, puissants, endurants mais également très rapides, ses chiens ont réalisé de belles performances lors de la Yukon Quest , l’une des deux plus difficiles courses de chiens de traîneau auquel Nicolas à participé durant l’hivernage qu’il à effectué au Yukon avec sa famille qui s’est agrandie d’un petit garçon. [Read more]

Odyssée Sibérienne (Hiver 2005/2006): depuis le Lac Baïkal jusqu’à Moscou, 8000 Kilomètres. C’est une aventure dans des paysages époustouflants à la rencontre de peuples rivalisant d’ingéniosité pour vivre dans l’un des endroits jugé par d’autres comme l’un des plus hostiles de la planète. Sur plus de 8000 km de montagne, de taïga et de toundra, Nicolas Vanier et ses dix chiens progressèrent à raison de plus de 80 km par 24 heures sur une piste éphémère tracée une semaine avant son passage par des sibériens, trappeurs, éleveurs de rennes menés par une équipe Franco-Russe qui se relayèrent d’un village à l’autre, d’un campement à un autre depuis Irkoutsk jusqu’à Moscou. Cette Odyssée qui débuta le 2 décembre sur les bords du très mythique Lac Baïkal s’est achevée à la fin de l’hiver le plus froid de la planète, sur la très symbolique Place Rouge de Moscou , spécialement enneigée pour l’occasion, le 19 mars 2005. [Read more]

Yo can also check his movies:

Loup (un film produit par MC4 et distribué par Pathé. Tournage 6 semaines en 2008, sortie sortie la fin de 2009) Nicolas voue une véritable fascination à cet animal dont il a croisé la route plusieurs centaines de fois. Il a toujours rêvé de lui consacré un grand film. L’histoire de ce film est né de la rencontre que Nicolas avait faite avec une famille de nomades éleveurs de rennes au cours de sa longue traversée de la Sibérie en 1990. Pendant près d’un an, Nicolas vivant comme l’un des leurs avait partagé la vie de ces nomades et de leur grande harde, se déplaçant avec eux d’un alpage à un autre, à dos de rennes ou juché sur un traîneau. Il avait alors constaté le lien très fort qui unissait ces hommes au territoire sur lequel il vivait en parfaite harmonie. Territoire qu’ils se partageaient avec les loups qu’ils haïssaient et vénéraient en même temps.

– Le Dernier Trappeur (Long métrage de fiction – Décembre 2004): Norman Winther est l’un des derniers trappeurs à entretenir avec les majestueuses Montagnes Rocheuses une relation d’échanges fondée sur une profonde connaissance du milieu et un grand respect des équilibres naturels. Avec sa femme, Nebaska, une indienne Nahanni, et ses fidèles chiens de traîneau, Norman nous emmène à la découverte d’un autre monde rythmé par les saisons. Randonnées dans la froidure de l’hiver, descentes de rivières tumultueuses, attaques de grizzly et de loups sont le quotidien du trappeur. Norman cultive sa vie comme un art de vivre dans ce monde où les blizzards soufflent parfois plus fort que les mots. Ce film est un hymne aux pays d’en haut et à la magnificence de ces vastes espaces sauvages.

Breathtaking! I like to see that there are still adventurers today!

Riding an Utapanashku

August 14, 2008 at 10:34 pm | Posted in Alaska, Traditions | Leave a comment
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Have you ever wanted to ride an Innu toboggan through the snow? If this was your childhood dream, you can now make it come true thanks to François Bellefleur of Uanamen-shipu, who offered the description for the diary of Peter Armitage (Fall 1982):

Construction of an Utapanashku

utapan – a toboggan; automobile
utapaniapi – rope used to haul the toboggan
utapanashku – a toboggan; snowmobile; he/she loads his toboggan
utapanikueu – he/she makes a toboggan; he loads someone’s toboggan
utapatshimaushu – he/she pulls a child on a toboggan.
utapatshimeu – he/she pulls, tows someone
utapeu – he/she pulls, tows someone
utapeun – a tobaggon load
(Lynn Drapeu. 1991. Dictionnaire Montagnais-Français. Montréal: Presses de l’Université du Québec. p.879).

Tools used to make the toboggan included a hacksaw, pocket knife, crooked knife (mukutan), extremely sharp axe, small hand plane, pot for hot water, “brush” (split stick with old rag in end), holding wedge tool, a flat carpenter’s pencil, screw-driver-push drill, and a “needle” made out of twisted snare wire.

Some pictures

Looks like quite a hard job, but summer can be so boring for snow addicts!

Deepening in Alaska indigenous languages

July 26, 2008 at 2:38 pm | Posted in Language, Naming | Leave a comment
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Few months ago I promised to deepen in the Alaska Native Languages Center of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. So did I, and I listed all the languages they describe ont heir site:

Aleut: Unangax^ (Aleut) is one branch of the Eskimo-Aleut language family. Its territory in Alaska encompasses the Aleutian Islands, the Pribilof Islands, and the Alaska Peninsula west of Stepovak Bay. Unangax^ is a single language divided at Atka Island into the Eastern and the Western dialects. Of a population of about 2,200 Unangax^, about 300 speak the language. This language was formerly called Aleut, a general term for introduced by Russian explorers and fur traders to refer to Native Alaskan of the Aleutian Islands, the Alaska Peninsula, Kodiak Island, and Prince William Sound (see the section on the Alutiiq language). The term Unangax^ means ‘person’ and probably derives from the root una, which refers to the seaside. The plural form ‘people’ is pronounced Unangas in the western dialect and Unangan in the eastern dialect, and these terms are also sometimes used to refer to the language. The indigenous term for the language is Unangam

Alutiiq: Alutiiq (Sugpiaq) is a Pacific Gulf variety of Yupik Eskimo spoken in two dialects from the Alaska Peninsula to Prince William Sound, including Kodiak Island. Of a total population of about 3,000 Alutiiq people, about 400 still speak the language. Although traditionally the people called themselves Sugpiaq (suk ‘person’ plus -piaq ‘real’), the name Alutiiq was adopted from a Russian plural form of Aleut, which Russian invaders applied to the Native people they encountered from Attu to Kodiak. Closely related to Central Alaskan Yup’ik, the Alutiiq language is divided into the Koniag and the Chugach dialects. Koniag Alutiiq is spoken on the upper part of the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island (and Afognak Island before it was deserted following the 1964 earthquake). Chugach Alutiiq is spoken on the Kenai Peninsula from English Bay and Port Graham to Prince William Sound where it meets Eyak. The first work on Alutiiq literacy was done by Russian Orthodox monks Herman and Gideon and the talented student Chumovitski, although their progress continued only until about 1807 and almost none of their work survives. After that, a few others – notably Tyzhnov, Uchilishchev, and Zyrianov – worked on the language during the Russian period, producing a translation of Matthew, a Catechism, and primer, but they achieved less success than those who worked in Aleut. The first modern linguistic work on Alutiiq was done by Irene Reed in the early 1960s and by Jeff Leer beginning in 1973. Leer has produced both a grammar and a dictionary of Koniag Alutiiq for classroom use.

Ahtna: Ahtna Athabascan is the language of the Copper River and the upper Susitna and Nenana drainages in eight communities. The total population is about is about 500 with perhaps 80 speakers. The first extensive linguistic work on Ahtna was begun in 1973 by James Kari, who published a comprehensive dictionary of the language in 1990.

Central Alaskan Yup’ik: Central Alaskan Yup’ik lies geographically and linguistically between Alutiiq and Siberian Yupik. The use of the apostrophe in Central Alaskan Yup’ik, as opposed to Siberian Yupik, denotes a long p. The word Yup’ik represents not only the language but also the name for the people themselves (yuk ‘person’ plus pik ‘real’.) Central Alaskan Yup’ik is the largest of the state’s Native languages, both in the size of its population and the number of speakers. Of a total population of about 21,000 people, about 10,000 are speakers of the language. Children still grow up speaking Yup’ik as their first language in 17 of 68 Yup’ik villages, those mainly located on the lower Kuskokwim River, on Nelson Island, and along the coast between the Kuskokwim River and Nelson Island. The main dialect is General Central Yup’ik, and the other four dialects are Norton Sound, Hooper Bay-Chevak, Nunivak, and Egegik. In the Hooper Bay-Chevak and Nunivak dialects, the name for the language and the people is “Cup’ik” (pronounced Chup-pik). Early linguistic work in Central Yup’ik was done primarily by Russian Orthodox, then Jesuit Catholic and Moravian missionaries, leading to a modest tradition of literacy used in letter writing. In the 1960s, Irene Reed and others at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks developed a modern writing system for the language, and their work led to the establishment of the state’s first school bilingual programs in four Yup’ik villages in the early 1970s. Since then a wide variety of bilingual materials has been published, as well as Steven Jacobson’s comprehensive dictionary of the language and his complete practical classroom grammar, and story collections and narratives by many others including a full novel by Anna Jacobson.

Deg Xinag: Deg Xinag (also Deg Hit’an; formerly known by the pejorative Ingalik) is the Athabascan language of Shageluk and Anvik and of the Athabascans at Holy Cross below Grayling on the lower Yukon River. Of a total population of about 275 Ingalik people, about 40 speak the language. A collection of traditional folk tales by the elder Belle Deacon was published in 1987, and a literacy manual in 1993.

Dena’ina: Dena’ina (Tanaina) is the Athabascan language of the Cook Inlet area with four dialects on the Kenai Peninsula, Upper Inlet area above Anchorage, and coastal and inland areas of the west side of Cook Inlet. Of the total population of about 900 people, about 75 speak the language. James Kari has done extensive work on the language since 1972, including his edition with Alan Boraas of the collected writings of Peter Kalifornsky in 1991.

Eyak: Eyak is not an Athabascan language, but a coordinate sub-branch to Athabascan as a whole in the Athabascan-Eyak branch of the Athabascan-Eyak-Tlingit language family. Eyak was spoken in the 19th century from Yakutat along the southcentral Alaska coast to Eyak at the Copper River delta, but by the 20th century only at Eyak. It is now represented by about 50 people but no surviving fluent speakers.only one remaining speaker, born in 1920 and living in Anchorage. Comprehensive documentation of Eyak has been carried out since the 1960s by Michael Krauss, including his edition of traditional stories, historic accounts, and poetic compositions by Anna Nelson Harry. The name Eyak itself is not an Eyak word but instead derives from the Chugach Eskimo name (Igya’aq) of the Eyak village site near the mouth of Eyak River (Krauss 2006:199). The Chugach word Igya’aq is a general term referring to ‘the outlet of a lake into a river.’
With the passing of Marie Smith Jones (pictured above with linguist Michael Krauss) on January 21, 2008 Eyak became the first Alaska Native language to become extinct in recent history.

Gwich’in: Gwich’in (Kutchin) is the Athabascan language spoken in the northeastern Alaska villages of Arctic Village, Venetie, Fort Yukon, Chalkyitsik, Circle, and Birch Creek, as well as in a wide adjacent area of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory. The Gwich’in population of Alaska is about 1,100, and of that number about 300 are speakers of the language. Gwich’in has had a written literature since the 1870s, when Episcopalian missionaries began extensive work on the language. A modern writing system was designed in the 1960s by Richard Mueller, and many books, including story collections and linguistic material, have been published by Katherine Peter, Jeff Leer, Lillian Garnett, Kathy Sikorski, and others.

Haida: Haida (Xa’ida) is the language of the southern half of Prince of Wales Island in the villages of Hyadaburg, Kasaan, and Craig, as well as a portion of the city of Ketchikan. About 600 Haida people live in Alaska, and about 15 of the most elderly of those speak the language. Haida is considered a linguistic isolate with no proven genetic relationship to any language family. A modern writing system was developed in 1972.

Han: Hän is the Athabascan language spoken in Alaska at the village of Eagle and in the Yukon Territory at Dawson. Of the total Alaskan Hän population of about 50 people, perhaps 12 speak the language. A writing system was established in the 1970s, and considerable documentation has been carried out at the Alaska Native Language Center as well as at the Yukon Native Language Centre in Whitehorse.

Holikachuk: Holikachuk is the Athabascan language of the Innoko River, formerly spoken at the village of Holikachuk, which has moved to Grayling on the lower Yukon River. Holikachuk, which is intermediate between Ingalik and Koyukon, was identified as a separate language in the 1970s. The total population is about 200, and of those perhaps 12 speak the language.

Inupiaq:Inupiaq is spoken throughout much of northern Alaska and is closely related to the Canadian Inuit dialects and the Greenlandic dialects, which may collectively be called “Inuit” or Eastern Eskimo, distinct from Yupik or Western Eskimo. Alaskan Inupiaq includes two major dialect groups ? North Alaskan Inupiaq and Seward Peninsula Inupiaq. North Alaskan Inupiaq comprises the North Slope dialect spoken along the Arctic Coast from Barter Island to Kivalina, and the Malimiut dialect found primarily around Kotzebue Sound and the Kobuk River. Seward Peninsula Inupiaq comprises the Qawiaraq dialect found principally in Teller and in the southern Seward Peninsula and Norton Sound area, and the Bering Strait dialect spoken in the villages surrounding Bering Strait and on the Diomede Islands. Dialect differences involve vocabulary and suffixes (lexicon) as well as sounds (phonology). North Slope and Malimiut are easily mutually intelligible, although there are vocabulary differences (tupiq means ?tent? in North Slope and ?house? in Malimiut; iglu is ?house? in North Slope) and sound differences (?dog? is qimmiq in North Slope and qipmiq in Malimiut). Seward Peninsula and North Alaskan dialects differ significantly from each other, and a fair amount of experience is required for a speaker of one to understand the dialect of the other. The name “Inupiaq,” meaning “real or genuine person” (inuk ?person? plus -piaq ?real, genuine?), is often spelled “Iñupiaq,” particularly in the northern dialects. It can refer to a person of this group (“He is an Inupiaq”) and can also be used as an adjective (“She is an Inupiaq woman”). The plural form of the noun is “Inupiat,” referring to the people collectively (“the Inupiat of the North Slope”). Alaska is home to about 13,500 Inupiat, of whom about 3,000, mostly over age 40, speak the language. The Canadian Inuit population of 31,000 includes about 24,000 speakers. In Greenland, a population of 46,400 includes 46,000 speakers.

Koyukon: Koyukon occupies the largest territory of any Alaskan Athabascan language. It is spoken in three dialects – Upper, Central, and Lower – in 11 villages along the Koyukuk and middle Yukon rivers. The total current population is about 2,300, of whom about 300 speak the language. The Jesuit Catholic missionary Jules Jette did extensive work on the language from 1899-1927. Since the early 1970s, native Koyukon speaker Eliza Jones has produced much linguistic material for use in schools and by the general public.

Siberian Yupik / St. Lawrence Island Yupik: Siberian Yupik (also St. Lawrence Island Yupik) is spoken in the two St. Lawrence Island villages of Gambell and Savoonga. The language of St. Lawrence Island is nearly identical to the language spoken across the Bering Strait on the tip of the Siberian Chukchi Peninsula. The total Siberian Yupik population in Alaska is about 1,100, and of that number about 1,050 speak the language. Children in both Gambell and Savoonga still learn Siberian Yupik as the first language of the home. Of a population of about 900 Siberian Yupik people in Siberia, there are about 300 speakers, although no children learn it as their first language. Although much linguistic and pedagogical work had been published in Cyrillic on the Siberian side, very little was written for St. Lawrence Island until the 1960s when linguists devised a modern orthography. Researchers at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks revised that orthography in 1971, and since then a wide variety of curriculum materials, including a preliminary dictionary and a practical grammar, have become available for the schools. Siberian Yupik is a distinct language from Central Alaskan Yup’ik. Notice that the former is spelled without an apostrophe.

(Lower) Tanana: Tanana Athabascan is now spoken only at Nenana and Minto on the Tanana River below Fairbanks. The Athabascan population of those two villages is about 380, of whom about 30, the youngest approaching age 60, speak the language. Michael Krauss did the first major linguistic fieldwork on this language beginning in 1961, and this was continued by James Kari. Recent publications in the language include the 1992 edition of stories told by Teddy Charlie as recorded by Krauss in 1961, and a preliminary dictionary compiled by Kari in 1994.

Tanacross Athabascan: Tanacross is the ancestral language of the Mansfield-Ketchumstock and Healy Lake-Jospeph Village bands. It is spoken today at Healy Lake, Dot Lake, and Tanacross on the middle Tanana River. The total population is about 220, of whom about 65 speak the language. A practical alphabet was established in 1973 and a few booklets have been published at the Alaska Native Language Center, but Tanacross remains one of the least documented of Alaska Native languages.

(Upper) Tanana: Upper Tanana Athabascan is spoken mainly in the Alaska villages of Northway, Tetlin, and Tok, but has a small population also across the border in Canada. The Alaskan population is about 300, of whom perhaps 105 speak the language. During the 1960s, Paul Milanowski established a writing system, and he worked with Alfred John to produce several booklets and a school dictionary for use in bilingual programs.

Tlingit: Tlingit (Łingít) is the language of coastal Southeastern Alaska from Yakutat south to Ketchikan. The total Tlingit population in Alaska is about 10,000 in 16 communities with about 500 speakers of the language. Tlingit is one branch of the Athabascan-Eyak-Tlingit language family. A practical writing system was developed in the 1960s, and linguists such as Constance Naish, Gillian Story, Richard and Nora Dauenhauer, and Jeff Leer have documented the language through a number of publications, including a verb dictionary, a noun dictionary, and a collection of ancient legends and traditional stories by Tlingit elder Elizabeth Nyman.

Tsimshian: Tsimshian has been spoken at Metlakatla on Annette Island in the far southeastern corner of Alaska since the people moved there from Canada in 1887 under the leadership of missionary William Duncan. Currently, of the 1,300 Tsimshian people living in Alaska, not more than 70 of the most elderly speak the language. Franz Boas did extensive research on the language in the early 1900s, and in 1977 the Metlakatlans adopted a standard practical orthography for use also by the Canadian Coast Tsimshians.

Tunuu: although the early Russian fur trade was exploitative and detrimental to the Aleut population as a whole, linguists working through the Russian Orthodox Church made great advances in literacy and helped foster a society that grew to be remarkably bilingual in Russian and Unangax^. The greatest of these Russian Orthodox linguists was Ivan Veniaminov who, beginning in 1824, worked with Aleut speakers to develop a writing system and translate religious and educational material into the native language. In modern times the outstanding academic contributor to Unangax^ linguistics is Knut Bergsland who from 1950 until his death in 1998 worked with Unangax^ speakers such as William Dirks Sr. and Moses Dirks – now himself a leading Unangax^ linguist – to design a modern writing system for the language and develop bilingual curriculum materials including school dictionaries for both dialects. In 1994 Bergsland produced a comprehensive Unangax^ dictionary, and in 1997 a detailed reference grammar.

Upper Kuskokwim: Upper Kuskokwim Athabascan is spoken in the villages of Nikolai, Telida, and McGrath in the Upper Kuskokwim River drainage. Of a total population of about 160 people, about 40 still speak the language. Raymond Collins began linguistic work at Nikolai in 1964, when he established a practical orthography. Since then he has worked with Betty Petruska to produce many small booklets and a school dictionary for use in the bilingual program.

I have to compare this list of languages with the one provided by Ethnologue, but in case of non-coincidence I think that the ANLC is more reliable, as they work shoulder to shoulder with them.

Meeting the Aleutians

July 13, 2008 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Alaska, Naming | Leave a comment
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After another long break – not my choice, for sure – I’ll try to continue with this huge and quite impossible project. I was reading I don’t know what on the Internet and I ended up in the Wikipedia page for the entry “aleut”. Their lands remind my a “tail” of an exotic animal, just where Alaska finishes. You can see that in the map of this older entry. It would be amazing to travel there! This is what I found out:

The Aleuts

The Aleuts (self-denomination: Unangax̂, Unangan or Unanga) are the indigenous people of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, United States and Kamchatka Krai, Russia. The homeland of the Aleuts includes the Aleutian Islands, the Pribilof Islands, the Shumagin Islands, and the far western part of the Alaska Peninsula. During the 19th century, the Aleuts were deported from the Aleutian Islands to the Commander Islands (now part of Kamchatka Krai) by the Russian-American Company.

History

After the arrival of missionaries in the late 18th century, many Aleuts became Christian by joining the Russian Orthodox Church. One of the earliest Christian martyrs in North America was Saint Peter the Aleut.

In 18th century, Russian furriers established settlements on the islands and exploited the people. (See Early history)

There was a recorded revolt against Russian workers in Amchitka in 1784. It started from the exhaustion of necessities that the Russians provided to local people in return for furs they had made. (See: Aleuts’ revolt)

In 1811, Aleuts went to San Nicholas to hunt. There was argument over paying the Nicoleño for being allowed to hunt on their island, a battle began almost all of the native men were killed. By 1853, only one native was left. (See Island of the Blue Dolphins)

Prior to major influence from outside, there were approximately 25,000 Aleuts on the archipelago. Barbarities by outside corporations and foreign diseases eventually reduced the population to one-tenth this number. Further declines led to a 1910 Census count of 1,491 Aleuts.

In 1942, during World War 2, Japanese forces occupied Attu and Kiska Islands in the western Aleutians, and later transported captive Attu Islanders to Hokkaidō, where they were held as prisoners of war. Hundreds more Aleuts from the western chain and the Pribilofs were evacuated by the United States government during WW2 and placed in internment camps in southeast Alaska, where many died. The Aleut Restitution Act of 1988 was an attempt by Congress to compensate the survivors.

The World War II campaign to retake Attu and Kiska was a significant component of the operations of the Asian theater.

Culture

Aleuts constructed partially underground houses called barabaras. According to Lillie McGarvey, a 20th-century Aleut leader, barabaras keep “occupants dry from the frequent rains, warm at all times, and snugly sheltered from the high winds common to the area”.

Traditional arts of the Aleuts include hunting, weapon-making, building of baidarkas (special hunting boats), and weaving. 19th century craftsmen were famed for their ornate wooden hunting hats, which feature elaborate and colorful designs and may be trimmed with sea lion whiskers, feathers, and ivory. Aleut seamstresses created finely stitched waterproof parkas from seal gut, and some women still master the skill of weaving fine baskets from rye and beach grass.

Aleut basketry is some of the finest in the world, and the tradition began in prehistoric times. Early Aleut women created baskets and woven mats of exceptional technical quality using only an elongated and sharpened thumbnail as a tool. Today, Aleut weavers continue to produce woven pieces of a remarkable cloth-like texture, works of modern art with roots in ancient tradition. The Aleut term for grass basket is qiigam aygaaxsii.

Language

While English and Russian are the dominant languages used by Aleuts living in the US and Russia respectively, the Aleut language is still spoken by several hundred people. The language belongs to the Eskimo-Aleut language family and includes three dialect groupings: Eastern Aleut, spoken on the Eastern Aleutian, Shumagin, Fox and Pribilof islands; Atkan, spoken on Atka and Bering islands; and the now extinct Attuan dialect. The Pribilof Islands boast the highest number of active speakers of Aleutian.

In popular culture

In Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, the character Raven is an Aleut harpooner seeking revenge for the US’s nuclear testing on Amchitka. The Aleut tribes are also the subject of the Sue Harrison’s Ivory Carver Trilogy that includes Mother Earth Father Sky, My Sister the Moon, and Brother Wind, in addition to being the subject of Irving Warner’s 2007 historical novel about the Attuans held as prisoners of war in Japan, “The War Journal of Lila Ann Smith”.

The entry on Wikipedia is quite short, but the books listed on the bottom look like interesting summer readings. Maybe it would be a good idea to start gathering the titles of books and novels related with the subject of the blog, as I already do with the links. What do you thing?

Tikigaq in Point Hope, Alaska

April 15, 2008 at 9:08 pm | Posted in Alaska | Leave a comment
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Two hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle lies the Far North Iñupiaq village of Point Hope, or Tikigaq as the Iñupiaq people call it, located near the tip of the Point Hope Promontory, a large gravel spit projecting several miles into the Chukchi Sea.

The finger-like peninsula that forms the western-most extension of the northwest Alaska coast between Cape Thompson and Cape Beaufort is known to local residents as Tikigaq (Tikeraq), the Inupiat word for index finger.

Tikigaq Corporation (Tikigaq) of Point Hope, Alaska, is an Alaska Native Village Corporation, which was established in 1971 under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA).

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The corporation has approximately 1,000 Inupiaq shareholders. Most of these shareholders are in Point Hope and are also shareholders of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC). Tikigaq has proven arctic construction capabilities, rural and urban environmental expertise, logistics services experience, and supports local hire throughout various projects. Their resources include staff engineers, scientists, project managers, superintendents, office managers, purchasing agents, quality control personnel and safety specialists.

Tikigaq has offices and yards in Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Point Hope, Alaska. Tikigaq’s subsidiaries are 8(a) certified through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and are registered Small Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) with the State of Alaska.

Tikigaq provides the following services:

  • Construction Services (Design/Build, Commercial, and Residential)
  • Information Technology/Remote Support
  • Logistics Services
  • Transportation Services
  • Utility Infrastructure, Operation, and Development
  • Fuels Distribution
  • Retail Services
  • Accounting Services
  • Environmental Services
  • Operation and Maintenance of Project Recovery and Treatment Systems
  • Demolition
  • Waste Handling and Disposal
  • Long-term Monitoring
  • UXO Removal and Disposal

I have not got time to read everything in their site, but it looks like a quite interesting project specially concerning self-sufficiency and local control of the natural resources, two main topics when talking about the survival of indigenous communities. I will keep searching for similar projects running on other northern places.

Talking Alaska

April 1, 2008 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Alaska, Blogging | Leave a comment
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This is the title for an interesting blog I discovered yestarday: Talking Alaska. It is written by Dr. Gary Holton, a research for the Alaska Native Languages Center. Here you have the blog presentation:

Welcome to Talking Alaska!

This blog covers topics related to Alaska Native languages, including language documentation, language revitalization, language activism, and language endangerment. We may touch on other related topics as well. Guest authors are welcome; contact the admin if you would like to contribute.

We are now well into the 21st century, and all of Alaska’s twenty indigenous (Native) languages are extremely endangered. The knowledge of the Elders risks being lost as young people in Alaska grow up speaking English, with little or no knowledge of the languages of the ancestors.

This is not a new situation. The decline of Alaska Native languages and the shift to English began shortly after the purchase of Alaska from Russia. As the The first General Agent of Education in Alaska, Sheldon Jackson began implementing English-only policies as early as 1884, believing that Native languages were an impediment to educational progress in the state. It was nearly one hundred years before the devastating legacy of these policies began to be reversed with the passage of the Alaska Bilingual Education Act on June 9, 1972. The remainder of the 1970s saw a surge of interest in Alaska Native language work, with many speakers learning to document and teach their Native languages. The decade culminated with the production of Talking Alaska, a series of ten 30-minute videos exploring the “priceless heritage of Alaska’s Native languages.”

The 21st century has seen a resurgence of interest in Alaska Native languages and Native language revitalization. Language programs have been started across the state, ranging from intensive summer language institutes to public immersion language schools. A new generation of speakers — many of the second language speakers — is emerging. These efforts provide testimony that Alaskans have recognized the “priceless heritage of Alaska’s Native language.”

A really think that Internet is a very useful tool for minorities, as it gives them the freedom to communicate annd claim for their rights to the whole world, and this is what this blog is doing. It is now om my RSS reader, so both you and me will keep in touch with them 🙂

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