The meaning of names Part 2: A family history

What’s in a name? For some, it’s just a name. For others, it represents generations of family history.

Cordelia Qiġnaaq Kellie.(Photo courtesy of Cordelia Qiġnaaq Kellie.)
Cordelia Qiġnaaq Kellie.(Photo courtesy of Cordelia Qiġnaaq Kellie.)

Cordelia Qiġnaaq Kellie started using her Iñupiaq name at work a few years ago for practical reasons. In this second installment of a five-part series, Kellie talks about what her Native name tells people about her.

Cordelia Qiġnaaq Kellie

Uvaŋa Qiġnaaq.

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My name is Cordelia. Ulġuniqmiuguruŋa. I am from Wainwright. Tagarookquyaaġlu, James quyaaġlu.

I use my Iñupiaq name for very practical reasons. I was emailing back and forth with a cousin of mine for work. She was working at the North Slope Borough at the time and I was emailing as Cordelia and signing my name as Cordelia. Finally I actually inserted my Iñupiaq name and said, “Alright, see you later. Qiġnaaq.” And she replied, “Oh, it is you! I thought it might be you!”

She didn’t know me as Cordelia. She didn’t know she was emailing with her cousin. It was only when I said “Qiġnaaq” that she knew who she was speaking with and I thought to myself that there must be a lot of other people that might only know me as Qiġnaaq first and Cordelia second. So I added it on Facebook so that if I’m friending somebody, they know who I am.

If I say “Cordelia Kellie” that doesn’t mean anything. It unlocks nothing about me like saying “Qiġnaaq” can because when I use that name, it immediately associates me with the person I was named after and who he was and who my family is.

When you hear “Qiġnaaq” you’re going to know that I’m named after somebody from Wainwright and I have a connection to Wainwright, which is where my family is from. If you say “Qiġnaaq” it’s going to shed light on the fact that I’m Iñupiaq and that I come from a northern region. It’s going to shed light on my relationships and my family connections to 150 people that are closest to me in a way that “Cordelia” is just not going to do.

This is part two of a five-part series:

Part One: Indigenizing government

Part Three: A time for change

Part Four: The aftermath of generational trauma

Part Five: The world of social media