Cup’ig Teaching Moment: Uksur “winter”

Presented by Calista Education & Culture, Inc.

Storyknife, January/February 2022 edition

Calista Corporation is introducing the Cup’ig Teaching Moment in our Storyknife newsletter through Calista Education & Culture, Inc. (CECI), to highlight Yuuyaraq (or Cuuyarer in Cup’ig), the traditional/cultural way of being in our Region. This edition of Cup’ig Teaching Moment is provided by Dale Smith, CECI Project Manager.

Nunivak Cup’ig is a language—or separate dialect of Central Alaskan Yup’ik—spoken in Central Alaska on Nunivak Island by Nunivak Cup’ig people. The people of Nunivak Island (Nuniwar in Nunivak Cup’ig) call themselves Cup’ig. A separate distinction should be noted, people from the village of Chevak call themselves Cup’ik. The name Cup’ig—with a “g”—is used for the Nunivak Island dialect and the name Cup’ik—with a “k”—is used for the Hooper Bay-Chevak Yup’ik dialect.

Cup’ig word endings: Majority of the Cup’ig word endings include “r” (example: Uksuar – fall). Another common ending is the letter “g” (example: Maklag – bearded seal). Most Yup’ik words end with a “k” or “q.”

The Cup’ig word for “winter” is Uksur (UHK-suurr). In Yup’ik, it’s spelled Uksuq (UHK-suuk).

The Cup’ig dialect is threatened. Nunivak Islanders have inhabited the island for over 2,000 years. Mekoryuk is the only village located on the northern part of the island. Shareholders originally from Mekoryuk live in the village, and are scattered throughout Alaska, the Lower 48, and even internationally. The majority of the fluent speaking Elders have passed. Although the local school has a Cup’ig language class for elementary students, it is still in danger.

The Cup’ig word for “winter” is Uksur (UHK-suurr). In Yup’ik, it’s spelled Uksuq (UHK-suuk).

Calista Corporation Shareholders from Mekoryuk, Nancy Edwards (left) and Bertha Andrew (right), taken at fish camp on Nunivak Island.

The mission of Calista Education & Culture, Inc. is to celebrate and promote Yuuyaraq, the traditional/cultural way of being in the Calista Region which inspires and encourages our people to achieve their dreams through education.