Akiachak - Then and Now
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Yupiit School District Yupiit Elitnaurutait Program

The Yupiit School District (YSD), formed by the Yup'ik villages of Akiachak, Akiak, and Tuluksak, designed a program for cultural heritage education entitled Yupiit Elitnaurutait (Cultural Teachings) whose central principle is "to strengthen and support the Yup'ik identity of students through the Yupiit Piciryarait (Way of Life)" [YSD, 1999]. As part of that program, Yupiit Elitnaurutait staff members identified a theme of Akiachak Then and Now for this Project Jukebox, to bring Yup'ik oral history, traditional knowledge, and historical documentation into the classroom and community through the current perspectives of respected Akiachak elders and long-time community members.


Photo of Mary Frederick and Sophie Kasayulie reviewing project website.Photo of Tom Kasayulie sharing his life experiences during an interview.Photo of Frank Chingliak and Elena Chingliak videotaping an interviewMary Frederick and Elder Nellie Moses interpreting mapped historical sites.
**Click Photo to enlarge image.

Project and Community Collaboration

Akiachak Project Jukebox reflects a close working relationship between staff members of both Yupiit Elitnaurutait and the Oral History Program of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the community of Akiachak. Yupiit Elitnaurutait Local Cultural Coordinator, Mary Frederick, organized focus group meetings in Akiachak with elders and other community members, and was instrumental in compiling a list of topics of community interest for this project. She contacted selected community members to schedule requested interviews in Akiachak during October 2005 and March 2006. Yupiit Elitnaurutait and Project Jukebox staff members jointly conducted interviews; Curriculum Specialist Sophie Kasayulie translated and Frank Chingliak, District Cultural Specialist and Archivist/Translator, videotaped interview sessions. The Yupiit Elitnaurutait team reviewed keyworded interviews for the website, drafted biographies for narrators, and critiqued progressive drafts of the Akiachak Then and Now website. Tom Kasayulie, Elizabeth Peter, and Bonnie James offered personal collections of historical photographs for use in Akiachak Then and Now, and elders worked with Yupiit Elitnaurutait staff members to identify pictured individuals and locations as needed. Nellie Moses and Elsie Wassilie drew maps of the village of Akiachak as it appeared in the 1930s. Previously videotaped interviews with elders Frederick Sualpi T. George, John Selaap’aq Constantine, George Ayaginaar Moses, and James Qukailnguq Peter, Sr., conducted by the Yupiit School District to document traditional knowledge, were also excerpted by Frank Chingliak for this Akiachak Project Jukebox.


Alaska Native Claim Settlement Act (ANCSA) 14(h)(1) Collection:

Under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act ("ANCSA" [Public Law 92-203]) of 1971, Section 14(h)(1), Historical Places and Cemetery Sites, allowed the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to convey fee title to existing cemetery sites and historical places. Yup'ik elders were interviewed as part of the process of determining historical sites of enduring significance to Alaska Native communities, and oral history interviews were tape recorded with accompanying field notes, photographs and site maps for many historical places.

Photo of Joshua Maquista Phillip siiting in a boat

One interview excerpted for Akiachak Then and Now has been provided by Yup'ik elder Joshua Phillip, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) 14(h)(1) program. Joshua Acurunaq (Makista) Phillip, born in 1912, is known as a consummate teacher, oral historian, storyteller, and source of traditional knowledge related to Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta regional lands and place names.

Joshua provided a series of richly detailed interviews to ANCSA 14(h)(1) researchers in the 1980s, which he formally released for use by the Yupiit School District. His interviews offer incomparable insight into Yup'ik culture, providing more than 350 historical Yup'ik place names.

Historic map of AkiachakPhotograph of grave markers taken in 1884 at Qikertarmiut by Moravian Church missionaries

Joshua Acurunaq Phillip’s 1988 ANCSA 14(h)(1) interview excerpted in the audio interview section of this project narrates the historical movement of Yup’ik families who eventually came to settle in what was called Akiacuaq (Akiachak). He recounts their story of relocation in the late 1800s to early 1900s from Qikertarmiut (formerly spelled Kihtagamiut), the old island site created by the changing Kuskokwim River (see map to the left taken from Wendell Oswalt (1980), Historic Settlements Along the Kuskokwim River, Alaska, Alaska State Library Historical Monograph No. 7: 88, Alaska Div. State Libraries and Museums, Juneau, Alaska).

The photograph of grave markers above was taken in 1884 at Qikertarmiut by Moravian Church missionaries J.A.H. Hartmann and W.H. Weinland in the early years of Moravian entry into the Kuskokwim River area (Alaska State Library Historical Collections, Juneau, Alaska: James H. Barker Photograph Collection, ASL-PCA-163-1075).

**Click Photo or Map image to enlarge image.


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