Centuries-old Alutiiq translation guide found in Kodiak

  • Thursday, February 22, 2018 10:20pm
  • News

KODIAK (AP) — A centuries-old primer for Russian to Alutiiq was found during a routine check of a Kodiak museum’s artifacts.

Kodiak was first colonized by Russian settlers in 1763 and was a Russian colony for more than 100 years until the Alaska Purchase in 1867.

Kodiak’s Baranov Museum collections master Michael Bach said the document contains unique children’s prayers disseminated by Russian Orthodox missionaries, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported Wednesday.

“It appears to be teaching kids to pray,” he said.

Bach said that scholars say language instruction was used strategically by Russian settlers.

It contains pronunciation guides that list common consonant-vowel groupings, likely as a reading primer.

Because Alutiiq was not a written language at the time, Cyrillic characters were used with accent marks to denote sounds not heard in Russian.

The form of writing nearly died out after political tensions in the 1960s caused wariness of Russian script. Cyrillic was replaced by the English alphabet, which is used to write Alutiiq today.

“For political reasons, the form of writing was thrown out the door,” Bach said.

The artifact will be kept in the Baranov Museum’s permanent collection.

There are an estimated 200 Alutiiq (or Sugpiaq) speakers in Alaska today, according to the Alaska Native Languages Center.

Yup’ik, which is part of the Eskimo-Aleut family of languages and linguistically similar to Alutiiq, has around 11,000 speakers in the state.

Native language experts have been urging lawmakers in Alaska to declare a “linguistic emergency” for Native languages that are in danger of becoming defunct.

The Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council warned the governor that if no action is taken, most of the 20 indigenous languages recognized by the state will die by the end of the century.

Independent state Rep. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan last week introduced a resolution calling for a governor administrative order on the issue.

“I don’t want to see any of our Native languages disappear,” Ortiz said. “And will work with every member of the House and Senate to get this resolution to the Governor’s desk as soon as possible.”

More in News

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation building is seen in Juneau, Alaska, in March 2022. The deadline for the permanent fund dividend is coming up fast, landing on March 31, 2023. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
PFD application deadline is next week; state revenue forecasts lower than expected

Alaska North Slope crude oil was estimated to be about $71.62 per barrel on Monday

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19: Cases jump in Kenai Peninsula Borough

No hospitalizations were reported in the Gulf Coast region

The Challenger Learning Center is seen in Kenai, Alaska, on Sept. 10, 2020. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Transportation gaps to be the focus of community meeting

The goal is to create a task force who can regularly meet and move forward on the issue

Bob Schroeder takes an electric chainsaw to a mock credit card during a protest outside the Wells Fargo in downtown Juneau at midday Tuesday. Schroeder cut up three mock credit cards representing three banks in Juneau protesters say are leading funders of fossil fuel development projects. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Protesters object to banks financing fossil fuel projects

Demonstrators used chain saw to cut up giant credit cards

The members of Sankofa Dance Theater Alaska perform for a crowd of students during an opening performance at Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science in Kenai, Alaska on Monday, March 20, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Uniting through movement

Kaleidoscope students learn about western African dances and music with in-residence artists

A blizzard warning is issued for the Eastern Kenai Peninsula and beyond by the National Weather Service on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (Screenshot)
Blizzard warning issued for Seward, Turnagain Pass

Snow accumulation is predicted to be from 7 to 20 inches

The Homer Spit and the Kenai Mountains are photographed of Monday, May 17, 2021, as seen from West Hill in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Magnitude 5.4 earthquake strikes west of Homer

The earthquake occurred just after 7 a.m.

Homer Police Lt. Ryan Browning provides ‘youth and technology’ presentation Saturday Feb. 4 at Homer High School in Homer, Alaska. Photo provided by Christopher Kincaid.
Social media harms targeted in community meetings

Homer police visiting Central Peninsula to open dialogue about “Parenting in the Digital Age”

The intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways is seen on Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Borough to use federal funds for street safety

The funds were made available through the Safe Streets and Roads for All program

Most Read