Qulnek sua’angq’rtua. - I have ten fingers.
The Alutiiq word sua’aq refers generally to a finger. Like English speakers, however, Alutiiq speakers have unique words for individual fingers. For example, Alutiiqs call the middle finger akulimaq, from the word for in-between. The second, or index finger is tekeq. Alutiiqs have a joke about people who wag their index fingers at others. This sort of nagging is said to make your finger grow longer!
Because most Alutiiq speakers don’t know the individual finger terms, language instructors recently translated “Where is Thumbkin,” a popular British children’s tune that teaches finger terms, into Alutiiq.
Some classic Alutiiq tools had special places for fingers. The throwing boards used to loft harpoons had specially carved grooves for the last three fingers. Harpoons featured a small finger rest, a crescent-shaped piece of wood or bone tied to the weapon’s shaft. The hunter placed his index finger on the rest to steady the harpoon while he prepared for a strike. One example in the Alutiiq Museum’s collections is carved from a walrus molar.
Photo: Harpoon finger rests. Koniag, Inc. collection, Karluk One.