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Alutiiq Word of the Week

Weekly lessons on all things Alutiiq! Each entry pairs a word and sentence in the Alutiiq language with a short article and an image. Explore Alutiiq vocabulary and a wealth of cultural information. We post a new lesson every Sunday. Lessons can be heard on KMXT Public Radio and read in the Kodiak Daily Mirror.  Hosted by Marya Halvorsen with production assistance from Michael Bach.

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Lesson 2031

AWotW eBlast S2031Sugpiat–Real People
“Sugpianek” ap’rtaakiikut cuumi, nutaan ap’rtaaraakut Alutiit–They used to call us Sugpiaq before, but now we are called Alutiiqs.

Who are Kodiak’s Native people? This a common question. Russian fur traders called them the Aleut, a word derived from a Siberian Native language that means coastal dweller. The Russian’s applied this term to all of the indigenous people they encountered, from the Aleutian Islands to Prince William Sound, regardless of their unique cultural heritages. On Kodiak, Sugpiaq (pluralized Sugpiat) was the traditional name for the people. Derived from the word suk, which means person, and -piat a suffix meaning real or genuine, Sugpiat translates as the real people. Many indigenous societies use similar terms. Yup’ik, the preferred designation of the Native people of western Alaska, also means “real people,” and Unangan, the preferred designation of Aleutian Islanders, translate as “we the people.”

Today many of Kodiak’s Native people refer to themselves as Alutiiq, which is the Sugpiat way of saying Aleut. Alutiiq remains popular as it highlights unique cultural qualities while retaining part of the word Aleut. However, there are still many people who prefer to be called Aleut, or who use the terms Aleut, Alutiiq, and Sugpiaq interchangeably. It is important to note, however, that most of Kodiak’s Native people recognize that the Aleut people of the Aleutian Island and those of Kodiak are culturally distinct.