Alaska Native Place Names Workshop draws attendees from Alaska and beyond

Alaska Native Place Names Workshop draws attendees from Alaska and beyond

“You can’t lose your culture as long as you are learning place names in your native language.” – Athabascan elder Robert Charlie, at the Alaska Native Place Names Workshop, April, 2015

In late April, more than 80 participants kicked off the national conference of the Council on Geographic Names Association with a day-long Alaska Native Place Names workshop sponsored by BBNC and the Alaska Native Language Center. The workshop highlighted the importance of place names collection, strategies for moving place names projects forward, and dilemmas such as whether to restrict certain place names data (for archeological and historic sites) or to provide online access to all data.

BBNC’s sponsorship made the workshop open to the public, so that more people could share ideas about collection efforts around the state. Francisca Demoski, BBNC’s Land Manager, was credited with pushing forward the idea of the workshop. “This is the outgrowth of Fran prodding me to bring together something like this,” said Dr. Gary Holton, linguistics professor and Director of the Alaska Native Language Archive. “I appreciate her efforts to organize and make this day happen.”

Attendees came from many areas of Alaska, the Yukon and the Lower 48, representing local, state and federal agencies, academic institutions, boroughs, and village and regional corporations. Several mentioned the importance of such an event and suggested similar gatherings in the future.

Place Names in Bristol Bay

Although BBNC’s Bristol Bay Online place names collection includes hundreds of names – in Yup’ik, Dena’ina and Aluutiq – there are more to be collected and preserved. BBNC and the Bristol Bay Education Foundation offer grants of up to $1,000 for projects that will enhance and contribute to the place names project. Community, tribal and school groups are encouraged to apply for grants, especially for projects in areas of the Bristol Bay region that have not been covered in the past.