2013 Iñupiaq Language Conference & Workshop keynote address

The 2013 Iñupiaq Language Conference & Workshop was held June 4-7 in Kotzebue, AK. I was invited to give remarks on June 5. Other speakers included land claims leader and author Willie Iġġiagruk Hensley of Kotzebue and University of Alaska Fairbanks professor Ron Aniqsuaq Brower of Barrow. The event was organized as a collaboration between the Robert Aqqaluk Newlin, Sr. Memorial Trust  and the regional Iñupiaq Language Commission. About 50 people attended, the majority of them elders. This was somewhat disappointing because in order for language revitalization to be successful, young people need to be in the driver’s seat. Nevertheless, I had a great time visiting with our elders and practicing my Iñupiaq. 

I participated in this same conference in June 2012, and I will discuss the overall outcomes of the two conferences in more detail in a subsequent post, including my thoughts on how they could be improved.   

I wrote my brief remarks in Iñupiatun with the assistance of Kapniaq Lorena Williams, a friend of mine from Kotzebue who has taught Iñupiatun at the university level, and who provided many corrections to drafts of my short speech. Writing a speech in Iñupiatun required a great deal of effort for me. I have studied our language off and on since 2008, and have spent only several months working directly with fluent speakers in Kotzebue during brief work stints. The rest of my language comes from grammar books, dictionaries, sporadic encounters with fluent speakers at conferences, and by communicating with other Inuit in Greenland and Canada via social media. Unfortunately there are few other young people in our region actively re-learning our language. As someone who grew up mainly in Anchorage and Juneau and lived in/visited the Arctic infrequently, I wanted to emphasize and demonstrate that anybody can learn our language, even without much exposure to it growing up. I also had a political motive in that I wanted to show that if I can prioritize Iñupiatun speaking and learning as a person from Anchorage without a living fluent speaker in my family, then our leadership and people with daily access to fluent language speakers have few excuses.

My keynote address and the English translation are below.  (You can also read the line-by-line translation of my remarks here.)  

Paġlagipsi. Uvlaallautaq. Tautukkama kiiñaqsitñik nakuullapiaġataqtuq. Aasii tusaaruni Iñupiałiġmik nunaptikni quvianaqtuq. Quyanaqpak Manuluk aiyugaaġluġikma, aasii quyagivsi maungahusi nunaaqqipayaannin. Uvanga Aqukkasuk. Amauġmanun atchiutingagaatnga, Kenneth Mills. Nalauġmiutchisiġa Tim Argetsinger. Ipnatchiaġmiungurunga aglaan iñuguqtunga Anchorage-mi. Ukiupak iñuuniaqtunga Massachusetts-mi. Angayuqaaka Don Argetsinger-lu Lynda Simiitaq Hadley-lu. Atautchimik aniqatiqaqtunga, aapiyaġa Sapsauq, John Argetsinger. Aanam Sarah Sarich atchiutigaa Joseph Hadley-mun, amaułukpuk. Saupsauq qunngiļaaqaq Ipnatchiami. Taimmani Saamimium nunaptikniitmata ilisuatrigaat qunngiļaaqaułłiġmik. Aana tuquruq tatqimi aqulliġmi, 82-nik ukiuqaqtuaq. Uqaluitka aanamnun, aasii sivullaiptinnun. Akkupak iļitqusiŋata nayuġaatigut.

Uvlupak quliaqtuaġluŋa uqaqatigisukkivsi sivuniġmik uvakŋamin. Aanam aakanga tuqupman TB-kun, Kenneth Mills nuuttuaq Nautaaġmun. Sapsaum tiguaqługu aanaga aasii iñuguqtitlugu. Iñupiaraałhaiñaqtuak. Aglaan taimmani sivulliich Nalauġmiut aggiqmata mauŋa, isumaptigun atanniqsimaniallapiaġataġaatigut aglagviŋñi. Tavraasiiñ, iñugiaktuat iñuvut tammaqsimarut.

Willie Iġġiagruk Hensley talks about growing up in Kotzebue.

Willie Iġġiagruk Hensley talks about growing up in Kotzebue

Aanaga aglakman Ipnatchiami, iļisuatrim Iñupiaraaqmata anauviñaqtaqługich iļilgaat uuktuutimik. Taipkua iļisuatrit sivuuġanaġniqsuat.Tavraasiiñ, aanam nalauġmiuraałhaiññaqhuni aakamnun, aakaga uqapiaraallaitchuq. 2008-mi, iññiaqtuŋa Yupiit Nunaŋatnun, aasii tusaagigitka nutaġaat uqapiaraaqtit.

Arigaa, tusupaluksimaruaŋa! Utiqama Anchorage-mun, utuqqanaaqaġviŋmi Eva Heffle-gum iļisautigaanga qanuq iñuk iļitchuġipkaġnaqmagaan uvamnik Iñupiatun. “Uvaŋa atiġa Aqukkasuk…”Arigaa, suaŋaniqsuaq! Ilaa sivullaipta nipiŋatigun uqaqtuaŋa. Tavraŋŋa qaŋa iļisaqtuŋa uqapiaraaqtitlu Iñupiatun makpiġaatigunlu. Ukiaġmi 2009-mi atautchimi tatqimi, savaaqłuŋa nuuttuŋa mauŋa, aasii utiqtuŋa upinġaami 2011-mi. Rachel Adams-lu, Aġniglu, Kapniaġlu, Ada Apaurak Ward-lu, Maqiġlu iļisuatripiaġaatŋa. Arigaa iļisuatripiaŋuplusi mikiruuramik Iñupiaraallaruŋa.

Ataramik aptaŋitpata apiqsruutiqaqtuni isiqattaaġayaġitka. Aglaguuruŋa uqalutchianik uvani. Aimmiamma anaqami iļisaqpauraqtuanga. Aptarivalukkitka aglaan iñullautaupłutiŋ uqautiŋitkaatŋa. Tavra kisupayaaq uqapiaraaqtiŋullaruq. Uvlutauġman iñugiaktut utuqqanaavut kisimiŋ aimmiruat. Isiqattaaqtuni alianaitchuq, aasii iļitchukkuvisi iļisuatigisigaasi.

Elders Minnie Gray of Shungnak and Barbara Wesley of Noatak

Elders Minnie Gray of Shungnak and Barbara Wesley of Noatak

Uvagut nutaġaat iļisimagivut uqapiaraaqtivut. Aasiin uvva iļisautilugich iļisautravut qanuq iļiññaqmagaan. Siļaliñiġmiutitun atautchikun sivutmukta, NANA-tkutnilu, Borough-kutnilu, Chukchi-kutnilu, School District-kutnilu savaqatigiigsa. Aglaan utaqqiñasi maniŋmik. Uvagut kisipta uqapiaraałiq utiġmun tasullagikput. Nalauġmiuraaqapta Nalauġmiutitun isumarugut. Nalauġmiutitun isumagupta, piigungniaġikput Iñupiatun ilitqusiqput. Uvagut nutaġaat uqavut siñiktut qaniptigni. Akkupak itiġnaqsiruq. Sivutmukta.

Tavra, quyagivsi tusaaplusi.


Welcome. Good morning. It’s extremely good to see all of your faces. And to hear Inupiaq in our land is cause for happiness. Thank you Manuluk for inviting me, and I’m grateful to all of you for coming from all of the communities. I am Aqukkasuk. They named me after my great grandfather, Kenneth Mills. My English name is Tim Argetsinger. I am from the Ipnatchiaġmiut, but I grew up in Anchorage. This year I am living in Massachusetts. My parents are Don Argetsinger and Lynda Hadley. I have one sibling, my older brother Sapsauq, John Argetsinger. My aana named him after Joseph Hadley, our great, great grandfather. Sapsauq was a reindeer herder in Deering. The Saami taught him about herding reindeer when they were in our land a long time ago. My aana passed away last month – she was 82. My words are for my aana and for all of our ancestors. Their spirits are watching over us right now.

Ron Aniqsuaq Brower shares an unipkaaq (legend) during some downtime.

Ron Aniqsuaq Brower shares an unipkaaq (legend) during some downtime

When my aana’s mother died from TB, Kenneth Mills moved to Noatak. Sapsauq adopted my aana and raised her. They only spoke Iñupiaq. But back then when the first white people arrived here, they tried extremely hard to control our minds in the schools. Consequently, our people started to become lost. When my aana was a student in Deering, the teachers would strike the children with a ruler for speaking Inupiaq. Those teachers were terrible. As a result, because my aana spoke only English to my mother, my mother does not speak our language.

Then in 2008 I visited the Yup’ik region, and I heard the young speakers. Wow, I sure became envious! When I returned to Anchorage, Eva Heffle taught me an Inupiatun introduction (how to talk about who I am, where I am from, etc.) at the senior center. “Uvaŋa atiġa Aqukkasuk…” Wow, that was powerful! It was like I talked through the voices of our ancestors. I have been studying since then with speakers and through Iñupiaq language books. In the fall of 2009, I moved here for one month for work, and returned in the summer of 2011. Rachel Adams, Aġnik, Kapniaq and Ada Apaurak Ward, and Maqiq (Mary Schaeffer) really taught me. I can speak a little Inupiaq because you are excellent teachers.

If they weren’t busy I would always visit them in their homes with questions. I’d write new words in here (my notebook). I studied really hard at night when I was at home. I probably annoyed them, but because they are nice people they didn’t tell me. Anybody can learn to become a speaker. Everyday many of our elders are in their homes alone. It’s entertaining to visit and they will teach you if you want to learn.

We younger people know our speakers. Now based on this fact, we must show them, our learners, how to learn. Let’s move forward together like the people of the North Slope, with NANA, the Borough, Chukchi, and the School District working together. But don’t wait for money. Only we alone can reclaim our language back. When we speak English, we think like white people. If we think like white people we will forget our Iñupiaq spirit. We young people, our tongues are asleep in our mouths. Now it’s time to wake up. Let’s move forward.

That’s all, thank you for listening.

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