Our Heritage Language
Obviously, during ancestral times the Alutiiq language was important in terms of offering the ability to tell stories using the language. However, the very language itself offers a story, as words are embedded with metaphor and readily apparent etymological roots that carry meaning and linkages to larger concepts that are frequently lost in translation. I have yet to find an ancestral story that indicates how the language was first given to the people or the significance of the language to the people. Yet, within our modern context and colonized state of communication, there are many life stories from Elders today that focus on the value of our heritage language and their painful experiences as it was devalued when they were young.
Although language is a part of all storytelling, this column in the catalog is not intended to include notations for stories as containing the value of language unless they explicitly addressed language loss or oppression through colonization. A recent UAF student came to Kodiak to begin a study of Elder stories of punishment in school for speaking their Indigenous language, which most likely will not be released for public access. However, the Alutiiq Museum National Science Foundation Language project also collected life stories from these same fluent Elders who suffered this persecution during their lives.
Learn more about the Kodiak Alutiiq language by visiting www.alutiiqlanguage.org