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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 16, 2002 - Issue 74


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Federal Grant Boosts UAF Teaching of Yup'ik

by Zaz Hollander Anchorage Daily News
credits: Photo by Beth Marino - The Nome Nugget
As a child growing up in the Yup'ik village of Emmonak, Walkie Charles struggled to get his head around the English language.

Today, Charles demonstrates his grasp of English as an instructor at the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

And now he's celebrating a $1 million grant he helped obtain that is aimed at strengthening Yup'ik-language education in classrooms in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

"Yup'ik is the strongest language group in Alaska," he said by phone from Fairbanks on Friday. "I feel really strongly for the continuation of the language."

The grant is designed to strengthen Yup'ik education in the classroom by enhancing the second-language skills of Lower Yukon, Lower Kuskokwim and Kuspuk school district certified teachers and teacher aides and recruiting Alaska Native youths to teach Yup'ik as a career.

King Island Singers - LIVENING UP THE PARTYThe money will be used over the next three years to develop a certificate in Yup'ik proficiency and another in Yup'ik-language education. At the onset, the new program is expected to benefit 10 students, 12 teacher aides and five undergraduate and graduate fellowships, Charles said.

Over time, the university hopes participants will start programs of their own.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Education Alaska Native Education Program. Courses will be held at the UAF Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel.

The grant builds on work already under way in the district, which has worked for more than 20 years training teachers and fostering Yup'ik-language retention, university officials said.

The university will hire a full-time coordinator, two current Yup'ik-language faculty will be partly reassigned, and Yup'ik elders will serve as language specialists during summer sessions.

More than 51 percent of all students in the region are classified as Yup'ik-speaking; however, fluency becomes more rare every year, Charles said. Out of about 20,000 central Alaska Yup'iks, roughly 10,500 speak the language, making the area the largest Native-speaking region in the state.

Emmonak, AK Map
Maps by Travel

Fairbanks, AK Map
Maps by Travel

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