Saving an endangered language

Naken-Natmen (Where from, Where to) Project

(Cover photo by Jante Kotwas for the museum)

Naken-Natmen project is a three-year project aimed at simultaneously looking back at past research and recordings, while also looking forward to future research and documentation. The project title “Naken-Natmen” or “Where from-Where to” reflects this dual focus.

Based on factors used to evaluate the status of threatened languages, the Alutiiq language shows signs it could be lost within ten years unless significant, unified efforts ensure its survival. These signs include rapidly decreasing numbers of speakers, only elder advanced fluency, little-spoken language at home or in gatherings, and parents who do not or can not teach Alutiiq to their children. Crawford, J. (1995). Bilingual education: History, politics, theory, and practice. 3rd ed. Los Angeles, CA: Bilingual Educational Services. 

In year one of the project, the Center for Digital Archaeology (CoDA) partnered with the Alutiiq Museum to reach the Naken-Natmen project goal: “to improve research and community access to Alutiiq language research sources within local and state archives”. We provided a portal for collaborators to access heritage items while also controlling access to sensitive items based on cultural protocols. Kelley Shanahan, Mukurtu Services Manager at CoDA, traveled to the Museum in Kodiak, Alaska to work closely with the core Naken-Natmen team to not only train on how to import heritage items but also to find inspiration for the look and design for the project page. In the end, almost all of the materials available online were imported by the newly trained museum staff.

Project Team

Alutiiq Museum Team

  • Michael Bach, Alutiiq Language Program Manager
  • April Laktonen Counceller, Executive Director
  • Alisha Drabek, Afognak Native Corporation

CoDA Team

  • Elena Toffalori, Project Manager
  • Kelley Shanahan, Web Design & Training

Partners

Advisors

Qik’rtarmiut Alutiit Language Advisory Council Alutiiq Elders. Elders who have contributed to this portal include Nick Alokli, Kathryn Chichenoff, Clyda Christensen, Mary Haakanson, Susan Malutin, Julia Naughton, Florence Pestrikoff, Phyllis Peterson, and Sophie Shepherd.

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

Community members, researchers, language speakers, and learners have the opportunity to contribute to this database by commenting on materials of interest or importance to you. Knowledge shared through the online language portal about speakers, linguistic markers, remembered words or phrases is priceless as little time remains to access the linguistic knowledge of the last generation of fluent, first language speakers. Visit the archive at https://alutiiqmuseum.mukurtu.net/ or contact Michael Bach: michael@alutiiqmuseum.org for assistance.