Turning A Page (language)

Andre Cramblit andrekar at NCIDC.ORG
Sun Aug 20 04:44:18 UTC 2006

New page turns for Alutiiq language

Article published on Wednesday, Aug 16th, 2006
Special to the Mirror

The Native language of Kodiak is now an open book, thanks to a new
publication introduced Tuesday at the Old Powerhouse Restaurant.

The “Kodiak Alutiiq Language Conversational Phrasebook,” by April
Laktonen Counceller of the Alutiiq Museum was written as part of a
master’s thesis. University of Alaska Fairbanks linguist Jeff Leer
edited the book. A full house of supporters, including members of the
Alaska Historical Commission and Lt. Gov. Loren Leman attended the
book’s premier.

Six Alutiiq Elders: Nick Alokli, Mary Haakanson, Dennis Knagin, Florence
Pestrikoff, Phyllis Peterson and Sophie Katelnikoff Shepherd contributed
their time and knowledge to the project. They are among the few
remaining fluent speakers of Alutiiq and most of them were on hand at
the event to sign books and to answer questions.

The event drew about 100 attendees and featured performances by the
Alutiiq Dancers and a serenade by St. Innocent’s Academy musicians.

Laktonen Counceller explained the Alutiiq language is now in dire
straits. With only 35 fluent speakers left, she said that even if all
of the Native language apprentices learn the language and become
fluent, their knowledge and speaking ability would only slow the
already rapid decline by just a few years. The decline is noted in the
Native language Eyak, that only has one speaker left.

Laktonen Counceller mentioned several projects the Alutiiq Museum has
created — like an Alutiiq language daycare/early language program and
providing children’s books to local preschools and primary grades —
that might help to revitalize the language.

The public can contribute to the preservation effort. Anyone can join
the Alutiiq Language Club, which meets every Wednesday at the Alutiiq
Museum at noon.

Eyak Elder, Mary Smith, is the last remaining speaker of the Eyak

“It’s sad to be the last speaker of your language. Please, turn back to
your own and learn your language so you won’t be alone like me.

“Go to the young people. Let go of the hate in your hearts. Love and
respect yourselves first. Elders, please give them courage and they
will never be alone,” she said.

“Help our people to understand their identity.”

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