For Birth and Rebirth on an Alaskan Island: The Life of
an Alutiiq Healer
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Copyright: 2001 by
Joanne B. Mulcahy
Mary Peterson contributed greatly and was quoted immensely
in Joanne B. Mulcahy's beautifully written book , Birth and
Rebirth of an Alaskan Island. Though not the author of this
story, her life is the center of it. Only through Mary's
willingness to share could this story be told. Mary continues
to share her life stories and language with individuals she
visits with and when she visits school sites, as well as
during conferences and other cultural gatherings.
For Yú.á (They
Booklet, CD and Cassette
Publication date: 2000 by the Teslin Tlingit Council, Teslin,
Yukon, with support from the Aboriginal Language Services,
This book is a primer on the Tlingit language. Emma Sam
was born in Teslin Yukon, a daughter of Rosie and (the late)
David Johnston. A fluent speaker of Tlingit, she is a member
of the Ishkìtàn clan. Emma's traditional name
is Waksâni. Emma is employed by the Government of Yukon
as Tlingit Language Specialist with Aboriginal Language Services.
Publication date: 1981; reprinted in 1996.
of Congress; copyright by North Slope Borough Commission
on History and Culture.
Kisautaq Leona Okakok transcribed and translated the 1978
NSB Elder's Conference which was put into a book form. It
is a great accomplishment of traditional oral stories and
Iñupiaq traditions, written in both Iñupiaq
and English. Many of the Elders who spoke have now passed
on. Puiguitkaat is a proper name for this book, as it means "Things
We Cannot Forget."
Kisautaq Leona Okakok has been a true leader in the North
Slope communities. She is the daughter of the late Samuel
Simmonds, who was a preacher for the Presbyterian Church
in Wainwright and Barrow. She has gone to college in Sheldon
Jackson Junior College and UAF, majoring in the Iñupiat
She has held various jobs as the Iñupiat History,
Language and Culture deputy director; was a director of the
Personnel Department; director of the Cultural Center and
is now currently the manager for the Arctic Education Foundation
for ASRC. She is also a member of the State of Alaska Redistricting
She has published some articles, "Serving the Purpose
of Education" for the Harvard Educational Review; "Why
Publish our own Material?" for the Native Press Research
Journal; a chapter called "Language and Cultural Considerations" in
the book, Kusiq: An Eskimo Life History From the Arctic Coast
of Alaska. Her work in translating and transcribing Puiguitkaat
has been greatly revered in the North Slope and other regions
in that it has preserved our traditional culture by documenting
the Elders, many of whom have passed on. We thank Kisautaq
for her work for the Iñupiaq people.
Moses Dirks of Atka is one of the youngest fluent speakers
of Aleut and has worked with Aleut language and literature
for over 30 years. In 1971, on the boat to Atka, he met Norwegian
linguist Knut Bergsland, who had been working with Aleut
since 1950. Their collaborative work began and Moses Dirks
joined the long and illustrious tradition of Aleut writers
that began in 1824 with the collaborative work of St. Innocent
Veniaminov and local leader Ivan Pan'kov and continued with
the Aleut priest St. Yakov Netsvetov and many important writers
of the late 19th and early 20th centuries including some
of Moses' contemporaries. The full history of Aleut literacy
is reviewed in the Aleut Dictionary compiled by Knut Bergsland
In 1972 Moses went to Oslo to work with Bergsland on the
new popular orthography for Aleut, based on Veniaminov's
Cyrillic, but using Roman letters. Moses was part of the
bilingual movement of the 1970s and wrote a number of booklets
and primers. He worked with Michael Krauss of the Alaska
Native Language Center with what was then the Alaska State
Operated School System and later with various school districts.
He produced a Junior Dictionary in 1978 and an Atkan Aleut
School Grammar in 1981. He collaborated for years with Bergsland
on the monumental (700-plus pages) Aleut Dictionary of 1994
working with the oldest speakers of Aleut, now all deceased.
Perhaps his most important work is Aleut Tales and Narratives,
a 700-plus page bilingual edition co-edited by Knut Bergsland
and Moses Dirks, published by ANLC in 1990. This book features
Aleut transcriptions and English translations of the Aleut
texts collected on wax cylinders by Waldemar Jochelson in
The introduction to this book is a story in itself, full
of 19th century adventure, 20th century detective work and
cold war espionage. Jochelson was a young revolutionary exiled
to Siberia where he became a linguist. Later, he did fieldwork
in the Aleutians. After the Russian revolution he emigrated
to New York, bringing several of his notebooks with him.
The wax cylinders remained in Leningrad, where they almost
by miracle survived the Russian Communist revolution and
the Nazi siege and bombings of WWII. In 1952 many of the
New York manuscripts were stolen from Jochelson's niece,
presumably by the KGB. Michael Krauss located the remaining
notebooks in New York, the cylinders in Leningrad and negotiated
an international trade: copies of each for both sides of
the cold war.
The cylinders survived, but who could understand and decipher
them? They were old, damaged, faint, muffled, scratchy and
in a language few people could still understand. The answer
was Moses Dirks, who carefully listened to copies of the
old cylinders from 1910 that recorded the voices of some
of the best Elders and tradition bearers of the era. He wrote
the stories down in Aleut and translated them into English.
The resulting volume is the largest collection of traditional
material in Aleut and a monument of Aleut literature. Without
the talent and dedication of Moses Dirks, this heritage would
have been lost to the Aleut people and the world at large.
Elsie P. Mather's work and interests in Yup'ik language
and traditions are extremely broad-ranging and span three
decades. She began publishing in Yup'ik in the 1970s when
the contemporary orthography was just under development.
Her children's book Qessangquq Avelngaq (The Lazy Mouse)
quickly gained widespread popularity, and was translated
into other Inuit languages. Mather worked in the late 70s
to develop an accurate orthography and promote literacy in
the Yup'ik region. Together with linguist Osahito Miyaoka,
she co-authored the standardized Yup'ik Eskimo Orthography
(Yup'ik Language Center, 1978). She has continued to collaborate
with Miyaoka on a full description of Yup'ik grammar into
the present. She has also collaborated with a several other
linguists and anthropologists. Beginning in the 1970s, Mather
began to transcribe and translate Yup'ik oral narratives,
individually and in collaboration with Phyllis Morrow. Her
translations appear in numerous journals and books, including
Coming To Light: Contemporary Translations of Native American
Literature (Random House), When Our Words Return: Writing,
Hearing, and Remembering Oral Traditions of Alaska and the
Yukon (Utah State University Press) and Native American Oral
Traditions: Collaboration and Interpretation (Utah State
University Press), to name a few. She has been a featured
speaker at many conferences, such as the Sitka Writer's Workshop,
the Alaska Anthropological Association, the American Folklore
Society and the Oral History Association.
In the early 80s, Elsie Mather began research to document
Yup'ik ceremonial traditions. Her work culminated with the
publication of the first full-length original book in the
Yup'ik language, Cauyarnariuq ("it is time for drumming",
Lower Kuskokwim School District 1985), which is based on
extensive interviews with contemporary Elders and translations
into Yup'ik of first-hand non-Native accounts of ceremonies.
This work remains a classic, read not only by its originally
intended audience-Yup'ik high school students-but also widely
cited in the anthropological literature. She continues her
original research, working most recently on a compendium
of Yup'ik names and the context of their cultural transmission.
Elsie Mather's devotion to biblical translation also spans
several decades. She is the continuing editor for the Old
Testament Translation Project of the Moravian Church and
the American Bible Society. To this work, she brings her
characteristic intellectual and scholarly energy, grappling
with the cultural, historical, orthographic and linguistic
divides that make such work especially challenging.
Erma Lawrence is selected for her lifetime work as Haida
oral tradition bearer, storyteller, educator and translator.
She is one of only about eight Alaska Haida remaining who
speak the language and one of only two or three who can also
read and write Haida. In the late 1970s and 80s she was instrumental
in transcribing and translating Haida stories-the primary
body of Alaska Haida writing we now have available to us.
In 1977, the Haida Dictionary was published, compiled primarily
by Erma Lawrence with assistance from other Haida language
consultants including Christine Edenso, Nora and Robert Cogo
and linguists Michael Krauss and Jeff Leer at Alaska Native
Language Center. To date, the work she and other Haida tradition
bearers of that time created has never been matched. Erma
lives in Ketchikan and is nearing her 90th birthday.
For Under the Arctic Sun: The Life and Times
of Frank and Ada Degnan
Publication date: 1998
Publisher: Cottonwood Bark
Frances Ann Degnan is an Unalit/Kawerak woman. She
was born in Unalakleet, Alaska, on May 26, 1943 to Frank
and Ada Degnan. She became interested in the life and
changing times of her people at the age of twelve. Along
with her father, she served in the Alaska Federation of Natives
organization in 1970 and through the passage of the public
law settling the Alaska Native Land Claims on December 18,
1971. Frances continues to serve on several boards that affect
the village and region.
Frances was educated at the Unalakleet Day School, Mt. Edgecumbe
High School, and the University of Alaska in Fairbanks where
she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and
Sociology in 1964. She then returned home and is currently
self-employed. Her favorite activities include smoking
fish and other subsistence activities, knitting musk ox wool,
being out in the country, and writing. Under the Arctic
Sun: The Life and Times of Frank and Ada Degnan is
Frances's first book.
Mike Lekanoff is Aleut from St. George Island. He follows
in the tradition of Bishop Alexei Panteleyev, who was stormbound
one winter in the 1930s on St. George Island. He tutored
many talented singers in the community and encouraged liturgical
singing and composition in Aleut and other Alaska Native
languages. In the 1950s, Mike was a student of Fr. Michael
Ossorgin at Mt. Edgecumbe High School and performed with
the well known and fondly remembered Ossorgin Chorale. In
the 1980s he was active in re-establishing the Ossorgin Chorale
and inviting Fr. Ossorgin to return to Alaska summers for
reunion, rehearsal and performances. The group was organized
as the Alaska Heritage Choir. For many years, until his recent
retirement, Mike was the choir director at St. Innocent Cathedral
in Anchorage. Because of worsening arthritis, he finds directing
and transcribing increasingly painful which has forced him
to cut back on these activities in recent years.
Michael Lekanoff's unique gift is in transcribing and arranging
Russian Orthodox choral pieces in Aleut and Slavonic that
were previously sung from memory and transmitted through
oral tradition. None of his work has been published, but
it is performed regularly in liturgical settings and in concerts.
He currently lives in Anchorage with his sister Pavla Lekanoff.
Longtime publisher of The Tundra Times.
For his outstanding work in Dena'ina Athabascan and in English
(most recently published under his A Dena'ina Legacy, K'tl'egh't
Sukdu: The Collected Writings of Peter Kalifornsky). Most
especially his commitment and dedication to writing both
in his own language and in English, his teaching activities
and his belief in the importance of working so the children
and future generations know something of their place, their
heritage and their language.
Mary TallMountain (Koyukon Athabascan) is recognized for
her collected poetry, essays and short stories-most recently
collected poems and short works found in The Light on the
Tent Wall, published posthumously and her noteworthy essay: "I
Tell You Now-You Can Go home Again"
TallMountain was nominated because although she was adopted
out at a young age (five or six) and raised primarily away
from her Koyukon birthplace, her writing on Alaska Native
themes in English is significant and should be recognized.
(She lived in Unalaska for a time, in the Lower 48 including
Oregon and died while living in San Francisco, although she
returned to Nulato at 50 to try and find her mother's grave.)
Her writing is important because TallMountain represents
the situation many of our young people face: English as the
predominate (sometimes only) language spoken, educated in
Western educational institutions and cut off from important
aspects of tradition and culture.
During her life, TallMountain faced many difficult personal
issues including abuse and alcoholism. Through her writing
and learning more about her heritage, she found a way to
reconnect with her past and gain strength and hope. Eventually
TallMountain used what she learned to help other people and
to guide them gently towards using writing as a way to heal
through nurturing both self and others.
The writings she left behind after her death stand as a
testament to the power of understanding one's place in the
universe and reaching out for understanding of our cultural
heritages-no matter the circumstances or where we end up