Cultural Affairs 

OVERVIEW

The Native Village of Atka Cultural Affairs program provides opportunities in the community for Unangax cultural enrichment and language revitalization as well as support of other cultural activities.  One interesting note - while all the people of the Aleutian region have a common, unified identity as Unangax people, throughout the Aleutian island chain region there have always been traditional Tribal designations for different village and island-groups.  The traditional Tribal name of the people of Atka and the surrounding area is "Niigugix."  The local dialect is known locally as Niigugim Tunuu, the Niigugix (aka Western or Atka) dialect of Unangam Tunuu (the Unangax Language, or "Aleut" language).      

 

LANGUAGE REVITALIZATION

Language revitalization is a major focus of the Cultural Affairs program with the Native Village of Atka.  A local cohort works with the regional Unangam Tunuu Revitalization Program which is led by APIA Cultural Heritage Department staff headquartered in Anchorage.  Together the group works to develop and continually improve a language teaching/learning curriculum.  Additionally, Unangam Tunuu classes are taught in the local school with students of all grades.

 

CULTURE CAMP

Culture Camp is another area of focus within Cultural Affairs.  The Niigugim Tanasxaa (Niigugix Camp) was first held in the summer of 2013, and has always had an emphasis on Traditional Foods of the local sea and land.  Through the years, Camp participants have learned about harvesting, preserving and preparing a variety of traditional foods from salmon and other traditional fish species such as halibut, cod, rock greenling, tidal foods, sea mammals, edible and medicinal plants from the land and sea shore, as well as reindeer, a species introduced to the island by the U.S. military in 1914.  In addition to the traditional foods, camp participants learn and perpetuate other cultural knowledge and activities such as basket weaving, skin sewing, traditional dance and singing, drum making, bentwood visors, wooden implement carving such as retrieving hooks and harpoons, bead work and other jewelry, medicinal salve making, and more.  By design, there is no age-limit on attending the Culture Camp.  We have both youth and adults/parents who attend together and participate in the wide variety of cultural learning activities.  And as the traditional foods remain the main focus of the camp, all meals are prepared on site and consist of the traditional foods.

 

PROJECTS

The Native Village of Atka Cultural Affairs program is pleased to also support cultural projects as they arise.  One example is a booklet on traditional grass collection and curing methods for the famed and highly revered art of grass basket weaving, which we have been honored to support by helping to seek funding for the development and eventually the printing of this booklet.

 

CONSULTATION

Native Village of Atka consults with the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, on the repatriation of human remains to the western Aleutian islands.  This includes the areas of Atka and surrounding islands, and stretches westward to Attu.  As the furthest west federally recognized Tribe in the Aleutians, and whose people include the descendants of Attu who were not allowed to return to their island after World War II, the Smithsonian Institute looks to our Tribe as the representatives of those who were taken from those islands.  Representatives of the Tribe travel periodically to Washington D.C. to consult on those repatriation cases.

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