Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The citizens in the Alaska community of Barrow have decided to return to their traditional roots and change the name of their town to something you will never be able to pronounce.

Courtesy of Yahoo: 

A slight majority of voters in the largely Inupiat city of Barrow approved efforts to change the community's name to Utqiagvik (oot-GHAR-vik) in their local election Oct. 4. The vote was tight, with 381 in favor of the name change and 375 against it. 

"Basically, it reinforces the cultural identity of the people," said Mayor Bob Harcharek, who is not Native. He noted that early day missionaries set up schools in the area where students were forbidden to speak in their native language and were punished if they did so. "It caused some social psychological problems." 

Barrow City Council member Qaiyaan Harcharek, the mayor's son, introduced a local ordinance in August that began the process ratified by voters. The younger Harcharek is Inupiat on his mother's side. 

"We are now in an era where the reclamation of tradition is critical to the perpetuation of identity as Iñupiat," he wrote in an email Friday to The Associated Press. "The people of Utqiagvik voted to regain our traditional name. Hopefully, it signifies the beginning of a decolonizing revolution. Regaining our traditional names is just one step towards that healing!"

As you can imagine this decision is not going over well with folks who run businesses with the name "Barrow" over the top, nor with many of the non-native residents.

However it is hard to blame the people of Utqiagvik for wanting to get back some of the heritage that was beaten out of them by the early missionaries.

As I have shared before what happened to the native children in Alaska was horrific and essentially constituted the wholesale destruction of an entire culture.

The children were torn from their families, and sometimes sent as far away as Arizona, to be "properly" educated in the ways the white man.

As a result many of the children returned to Alaska villages unable to speak the language, knowing nothing about how to survive in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, and stripped of any sense of self worth.

Alcoholism and drug use became an epidemic, and many of these villages still have no recovered.

So yeah, Utqiagvik (oot-GHAR-vik) is hard as hell to pronounce. But tough shit, learning to do so is really the very least we can do to show respect for a people who have managed to survive frigid temperatures, famine, pestilence, and of worst of all, the arrival of the Christians.


  1. Anonymous4:11 AM

    I don't find it difficult to pronounce. Try harder.

    1. Okay well yeah it's fairly easy to pronounce when it is spelled out phonetically for you, but go ahead and look at it in its original spelling and try it.

      I have lived here my entire life, and I did not even know where to start.

      Of course I lived in Hawaii for a year and butchered that language non-stop. So maybe it's just me.

    2. Anonymous8:52 AM

      This is a very empowering decision. I hope more Native villages take back their original place names. As for difficulty in pronunciation, it's important to remember that these languages were oral in origination so the spelling you see is a result of the orthography (writing system) that a linguist chose or developed to best represent the unique sounds of the language.

    3. Anonymous12:04 PM

      They could easily change that spelling too, since it isn't their native spelling, being an oral language and all.

      China did it with Peking/Beijing.

      Utgarvik. Utgarvic. Ootgarvik. Ootgarvic. There are plenty of possibilities to make it easier to prounounce and reflect the language. Of course, I'm only reading your phonetics and haven't heard the name pronounced. There could be some sounds in there that aren't reflected in the phonetics.

  2. Anonymous4:12 AM

    It's probably hardest to pronounce for non native speakers using English to transliterate the name.

  3. Anonymous4:18 AM

    I think the new town name is more "un-write-able" than "un-pronounce-able" for many of us but I also think that it is entirely appropriate for the residents to change the name of their town to something that embodies who they are and always have been.

  4. Anonymous4:38 AM

    I love it! About time that the Native People take back their culture and languages! More power to them!

  5. A. J. Billings4:51 AM

    The USA declared war on native peoples in the USA,
    and they still have not received compensation for the hundreds of treaties broken, and the wholesale genocide of their people and culture.

  6. Anonymous5:00 AM

    Look at a map of Canada's north and it's communities and place names - we embrace our diversity and ethnic heritage :-)

    1. Anonymous1:11 AM

      Except for Canadian assimilation policy which ripped First Nations families apart and sent kids to live with non-aboriginals and forbid them to speak their own languages and all that. Ya Canada embraces diversity.

  7. Anonymous5:27 AM

    Glad they won the vote !! :)

    OT - story on folks voting with their wallets too - not just trump but his children too (who as one person put it are "a puppet" for their day
    The New Protesters Defying Donald Trump: His Customers

    1. Anonymous12:33 PM

      Well, duh.

      He's poisoned his "brand". People can't stand his name. He doesn't have enough alt-right red necks to keep his business afloat. They can't afford to buy his stuff and the people that can afford to won't because it's now tainted.

      Macy's started it when they dropped his stuff. I'm glad more of the "little people" are doing the same. There are other gold courses, restaurants and hotel rooms just as good or even better for less money than what the Trump brand charges.

      I don't buy Georgia Pacific because it is owned by the Koch brothers. That means being particular about my paper products. I don't buy from Hobby Lobby. I don't eat Chick-Fil-A. It might take some effort but you can find alternatives because this is America where competition is part of Capitalism.

      I predicted this would happen. I've repeated it. Trump has destroyed his "brand" and it won't just be Macy's refusing to stock his crap. It will be people refusing to buy his crap or patronize anything with the Trump name on it.

      He's finished. Financially. He killed his business by tainting his name. He's made his very name disgusting to people. And by destroying his name, he's also destroyed the future profits of his children.

      Yeah, I'm so sorry for them. I just can't stop from giggling.

    2. I'm with 12:33. I've refused to buy from many companies such as Home Depot, Nestle, and others mentioned above. I used an app called buycott available on Android and iOS. Unfortunately, not available for Win10 phones, so don't have it at the ready when shopping.

  8. Anonymous6:37 AM

    Did you know - On this day in 1867, the U.S. formally took possession of Alaska after purchasing the territory from Russia for $7.2 million, or less than two cents an acre.

    149 years ago.

    1. Anonymous6:42 AM

      Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959, and is now recognized for its vast natural resources. Today, 25 percent of America’s oil and over 50 percent of its seafood come from Alaska. It is also the largest state in area, about one-fifth the size of the lower 48 states combined, though it remains sparsely populated. The name Alaska is derived from the Aleut word alyeska, which means “great land.” Alaska has two official state holidays to commemorate its origins: Seward’s Day, observed the last Monday in March, celebrates the March 30, 1867, signing of the land treaty between the U.S. and Russia, and Alaska Day, observed every October 18, marks the anniversary of the formal land transfer.

    2. Anonymous8:53 AM

      My fear is that a President Trump (my stomach just lurched) would just flip us back to Russia to try and impress his boyfriend Putin. Seriously.

    3. Anonymous9:42 AM

      853 oh that is going to happen no matter who is President...wait for it...

  9. Anonymous7:42 AM

    OT?"“American voters deserve fair maps that represent our diverse communities – and we need a coordinated strategy to make that happen,” Holder said in a statement. “This unprecedented new effort will ensure Democrats have a seat at the table to create fairer maps after 2020.”"“I think we’ve got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around,” the president said."

  10. Anonymous8:13 AM

    What supposedly Christian missionaries have done to native populations around the world is deplorable. The god they profess to follow is not an entity I could possibly consider.

    Glad to see the AK Natives standing up for their traditions.

  11. Anonymous9:41 AM

    About time they took their power back! Not that hard!
    Others just make it seem impossible...then you find out how easy it was the whole time...shrug!

  12. Anonymous12:01 PM

    I'd say it's easier to pronounce than it is to spell.

    I think it's wonderful they are taking their name back.

    I wouldn't be surprised if you find quite a few "blue" voters in the pocket of Native Alaskan populations. The Native Americans in the U.S. (and elsewhere but they can't vote) can't stand Trump. He has insulted and disparaged them ever since he decided to go into the casino business and they were competitors. They also take offense with him referring to Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas.

    So if Utqiagvik goes for Hillary, there ya go.


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