Native nonprofit publishes language glossary in English, Inupiaq, Yup’ik

The language experts gather together for a group photograph. (Kawerak Social Science Program photo)

Bering Strait regional nonprofit Kawerak has published a language glossary that provides research, science, policy and resource management terms in English, Inupiaq, St. Lawrence Island Yupik and Yup’ik.

The glossary is part of Kawerak’s “Knowledge Sovereignty and the Indigenization of Knowledge” effort.

It’s “one small step” in the work of the Indigenization of knowledge, said Kawerak Social Science Program Director Julie Raymond-Yakoubian. With a glossary available, she said, researchers can better collaborate with Indigenous knowledge and culture.

“Indigenous knowledge, traditional knowledge, Indigenous languages are often not forefronted,” she said. “So Kawerak staff wanted to take an opportunity that we had to bring language experts together to put down on paper a lot of the terms and phrases that are relevant for the work that Kawerak staff and others are doing.”

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Raymond-Yakoubian emphasized the relevance of Indigenous knowledge today and said she wants to ensure Indigenous voices are heard.

“What knowledge sovereignty and the Indigenization of knowledge means is really bringing to the forefront tribal knowledge,” she said. “It’s important, it’s value. And ensuring it is used in all the appropriate contexts where it can be used — which is basically everywhere. And making sure that Indigenous voices are being heard and taking a lead in matters that impact Indigenous people.”

There are many ways to continue the process of the Indigenization of knowledge, said Raymond-Yakoubian. Expanding the glossary to include more dialects and terms is one step. Kawerak is also working on a toolkit to help provide communities with guidance so they can engage more with researchers.

Raymond-Yakoubian thanked the contributors for making the publication of the glossary possible. Especially, she said, she thanks the language experts.

“They are the ones who contributed their time and their knowledge and their language expertise to this work,” she said.

Kawerak hopes its work with the Indigenization of knowledge will be something other organizations partake in and keep in mind when completing other projects.

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