The Naming of Kiana
Left to right: Eileen Devinney, Lorry Schuerch,
Tommie Sheldon Jr., Percy Jackson & Leo Jackson
The Naming of Kiana
Tommie Sheldon Jr., Roger Atoruk, Walter Cook, Percy Jackson, and
Leo Jackson talk about the naming of Kiana with William Schneider and
Eileen Devinney, January 28, 2003 in Kiana, Alaska.
Bill Schneider: Today
is January 28, 2003. Eileen Devinney is here. I'm Bill Schneider. And today
we have the pleasure of talking about the naming of Kiana and a little
bit about the history of Kiana. And we have Percy Jackson with us here.
We have Roger Atoruk. We have Walter Cook, Leo Jackson, and Tommie Sheldon.
So thank you all for taking the time to do this.
Last night we were talking about the naming of this
place Kiana. So, at that point there was some discussion about how it might
be valuable to have you talk about the naming and the different thoughts
about why it was named this way. So, I'll let you go ahead.
[Photo by William Schneider]
The old village site as it looks today.
Sheldon Jr.: I'm going to try to speak
English, if you can understand me later. This Kiana is a word that is supposed
to be a name for this small village. Like I said, I have been drawing that
old village from way back, early 1900... Because when I grow up, when I
see those buildings... I see those buildings were all getting rotten already.
So it must have been 1898 when the white people first came to Kiana. Qayaan,
Qayaan, Qayaana. And how we get stuck on this one seems like, because we
were talking about three things like: Qayaana, Katyaak, means rivers meet
together, three of them, and Qayaan. We don't know which one to take, but
it says Qayaana means there's. If you are talking about Qayaana, there's
a point. They're talking about that Qayaan. When we were talking about
Qayaana -- Katyaak means three rivers meet and I think they all had meaning
in certain part of this village. Everyone one of them. Qayaan Katyaak and. So
it is kind of hard to understand. But since you are talking about Qayaana,
means it's right there across the river. Katyaak means together, rivers
meet together. And Qayaan means, seems like somebody's name. It is hard
to say because there's hundreds of years people live here. There's a few
people who are supposed to be down the line from those people who live
here in the village first of all. Tuluaana Sovalook and some others too.
My wife is one of those people that was down the line from those people,
first people from Kiana. So, I would say if you're talking about Qayaan,
Katyaak and -- they all have meaning right here in this same village.
Bill Schneider: That's very helpful.
Atoruk: From what I heard about Qayaan, naming of Qayaan, it's named
for that point across the river. The point that we were talking about last
night. The name of that point is Qayaana, Qayaan. There's lots of names,
Eskimo names, all around Kiana. There's Auktuutaiyaq, Aplibaitchiaq, Iyaaqtubvik, Sallieiq.
There's all kinds of names and the name for that point across from the
village here is Qayaana, Qayaan for short. And it is named Qayaana. And
Katyaak is where the rivers meet.
Photo Courtesy of Kay Kennedy Collection, 91-098-337, Archives,
University of Alaska Fairbanks
The Kobuk River makes a funny bend at Kiana and the Squirrel River flows into the Kobuk River just to the east of town. The abrupt bend of the Kobuk River makes it appear as though it is a place where three rivers meet, although it is really just the two rivers converging.
There's lots of Katyaaks in this area
all over. Up the river, down river. There are a lot of Katyaaks. So that's
from what my father told me. My father died in 1991. He was 86 years old.
He told me that this village is named for that point across the village,
Qayaana. The white people when they come here, the miners, I guess, --
maybe the Eskimos name is Qayaana. They hear the white people hear the
Eskimos talking about Qayaana and they call it Kiana for that Qayaana.
That's the way I understand it. That's how I understand Kiana got its name.
The Eskimo name is Katyaak, because it is where the rivers meet. That's
what my father told me when, that was before he died. He told me a lot
of things about the names of the places around here. He even took me up
the river all the way up to Hunt River, and tell me the names of certain
places. There's an Eskimo name for every bend. Name for the land there
and right across it there is a name--; a name for every bend. And that's
how the Eskimos name all the places around here. You ever hear about Doug
Anderson. Doug Anderson. I took Doug Anderson up the river with my boat
and I tell him about all the names that I know of. And he put it on; We
stop every bend. It took us all day to get up to Hunt River. Sometimes
we'd stop and then we'd argue. He'd say that's not the name, according
to the map that's not its name. And I say, that's the way I heard it from the Eskimos. And then all the way up to Hunt River, there's a name for
every place -- across there, all over. So I think Doug Anderson got it
on a map. That's the way I heard Kiana got its name. And last summer I
was talking to Esther Norton in Kotzebue. Her maiden name is Kiana. She
said that Kiana is named for her grandfather, but I don't know. I think
Percy got something to say about this. [Inupiaq to Percy]
Percy Jackson: [Inupiaq]
View of the Kobuk River from Kiana.
[Photo by Eileen Devinney]
Roger Atoruk: Ok,
Percy thinks that what I say is the way he's heard it from the old people.
Tommie Sheldon Jr.: I
want to add a little more of what I know. This is not the only three rivers
meet, here in Kobuk River. There are three of them over in Selawik, like
[Silibvik, Tavravik, Kugruaq]
where the Qayaana -- Katyaabmiit means
right there where the rivers meet. Same kind. Three rivers meet. Qayaana,
over there. But there's nobody living there. There's people living in Selawik,
That's why they never mention that Qayaana not too often because nobody
live over there. Here we are living in -- Katyaabmiut they
call us. Katyaak, Katyaak means Qayaana. Katyaak, yeah.
Bill Schneider: Thank
Eileen Devinney: Did
you learn that.
Tommie Sheldon Jr.: And
I know Roger is talking sense.
Eileen Devinney: I know yesterday there
was some discussion, was it three rivers or two rivers. And I wondered if
anyone sees a difference.
[Photo courtesy of Lorry Schuerch Jr.]
At the far left is the mouth of the Squirrel River. Straight ahead and at the right (on either side of Qayaana) is the Kobuk River (there is that sandbar in the middle of the Kobuk River).
Atoruk: Actually, it's just two rivers.
Those two across from the village there, they're both Kobuk River. They
both come from the Kobuk River. And there's only one river, that Squirrel
River, that goes up that towards north. From the east, that's actually
one river, but it's got two mouths. It's seven and a half miles up the
river, it just comes apart and come into Kiana. And that's why it's called
Eileen Devinney: It
does look funny from... It's an odd way the rivers come together, so.
Bill Schneider: Walter,
do you want to add something?
Walter Cook: Yeah.
As I was growing up, you know, we went to my Native language when I was
small. They used to call it Katyaak. That's how I learned it from our Native
people. And then later on, the point they are talking about right across
from the village it was Qayaan, Qayaana. And all these years, seems like
these other villages, surrounding villages always call our Native people Katyaabmiit.
The name for that three rivers. And I think the main purpose of this meeting
here is I guess Qayaana was the main name for Kiana. I agree with these
people, you know, because they are older than me so they know more about
this place here.
Bill Schneider: Good.
Good. Should we.
Eileen Devinney: Does
Leo have anything? Leo, did you.
Bill Schneider: Leo,
we forgot you.
Leo Jackson: [Inupiaq]
Only thing I heard is what Roger and Tommie told. That's the way I heard
it. No one else has told me any different stories about this Kiana. Yeah.
This must be it. I don't know of anything else to add.