Ugiuvaŋmiuguruŋa/I am from King Island
My family comes from King Island (Ugiuviak), Alaska, a remote island in the Bering Sea that has been uninhabited since the Bureau of Indian Affairs forcibly relocated our people off the island in 1959 under pressure from the federal government’s policy of assimilating Native Americans. Like many King Islanders in my generation, I have never been to my ancestral home. My mother last returned in 1974, before my birth. I am seeking funding in order to research, undertake, and document a trip to the King Island while my mother and her remaining siblings-- as well as others who were born and raised on the island-- are still alive, interested, and capable of making the trip together to ensure that King Islanders remain connected to our ancestors, culture, and place of origin. I will generate a book of poems and reflect my experiences in my novel-in-progress, as well as publish non-fiction accounts of the process online.
I’ve written two books of poetry; the first engages the role of displacement and landscape, through poems that speak to loss and recovery of identity, and the second confronts more directly the threat of Inuit cultural and biological extinction. I’m finishing a third that looks at how modernity and tradition complicate and support reclamation and reassertion of identity through experiences of motherhood/daughterhood, and family in the process of cultural transmission and survival. I’ve also begun work on a novel related to the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Though a work of fiction, its narrative arc is based on the history of the creation, passage, and implementation of the Act over its 40 years; its protagonists’ actions are inextricably linked to the tribal/village relationships and sites designated and chosen according to ANCSA. Traveling to King Island will surely inform my sense of self, place, and relationship to my family and my corporations. It will look closely at the implications of ANCSA on a policy as well as a personal level. Four decades after ANCSA, my generation is poised to reassess and reaffirm our rights and responsibilities to each other as Native people. The symbolic undertaking of the trip as well as the concrete experiences derived from it can only inform future expressions of solidarity, hope, and reaffirmation of our traditions as we continue to adapt to continuous change.
Getting to King Island is difficult. It will involve securing safe and reliable transportation to the island through a series of chartered boats or helicopters, as the island is inaccessible by airplane and has no viable landings for the kinds of boats that route through the Bering Sea. However, it is possible, and adequate financial support will ensure the safest and most reliable transport to and from the island. I have obtained several quotes for both air and sea transport for groups of varying size and ability - inclusive of elders and youth as well as technical advisors and logistical support. Throughout the project I will maintain a Web site to publish trip preparations and logistics, documenting the process so others can follow and replicate it if they wish -- or simply gain an understanding of the challenges of reversing federal policy and returning people to their homes, even for a brief visit of several weeks. I will also maintain written journals, take and archive photographs, record video, and assuredly base my future writing and teaching on the experience.
A minimum fundraising goal for this project is approximately $31,000. Funds will be used to charter appropriate transportation to the island, obtain necessary supplies for a stay of approximately two weeks duration, and compensate participants for their cultural expertise and technical assistance. If we overfund the project, it may be possible to extend the stay on the island or schedule a additional trips with new participants. In the King Island dialect of Inupiaq we have several ways of expressing our appreciation for those who have extended kindness to us: Quyaanna means thank you. Iliġanamiik is used to express deepest and most heartfelt gratitude. Quyanna and Iliġanamiik for considering supporting this project.
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