Qanuq Ilitaavut: “How We Learned What We Know” (Wales Inupiaq Sea Ice Dictionary)

  • Igor KrupnikEmail author
  • Winton (Utuktaaq) WeyapukJr


The chapter discusses a collaborative effort to document more than 120 local Inupiaq terms for sea ice and associated vocabulary in the community of Wales, Alaska, in 2007–2008. The value of recording indigenous words for sea ice as a key to understanding indigenous knowledge of sea ice was first tested during an earlier project on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska (2000–2002). Under the SIKU initiative, more than 20 of such local ice vocabularies were collected in indigenous communities in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka, Russia. In Wales, Winton Weaypuk, a boat captain and a speaker of the Kingikmiut dialect, led the effort to collect local ice terms, documented elders’ knowledge about ice, and took more than 100 photos of various ice-related activities in the Wales area. Traditional words for ice, illustrations of local ice forms, and the Inupiaq explanations and English translations collected for the project would be of help to young hunters, so that the knowledge is preserved for future generations.


Sea ice Wales Alaska Inupiaq Indigenous terminologies 



The work on the Wales Inupiaq Sea Ice Dictionary was sponsored by the grant from the “Shared Beringia Heritage Program,” National Park Service, Alaska Office, with additional support from the SIZONet project at the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks (NSF OPP 0632398) and the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. We are grateful to our team members, Herbert Anungazuk, Hajo Eicken, Matthew Druckenmiller, Lawrence D. Kaplan for their constant support and for many helpful edits to an earlier draft of this chapter. Our prime Inupiaq consultants, Faye Ongtowasruk and Pete Sereadlook, generously shared their knowledge with us. We appreciate the support of the Native Community of Wales and of the Wales Village IRA Council that endorsed our work in 2007. Many people made valuable contribution to the production of the dictionary, including Elizabeth Clancy, Rene Payne, and Lisa Crunk at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science; Martha Shulski at the Alaska Climate Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Carol Zane Jolles at the University of Washington. Ronald H. Brower, Sr., and Josh Wisniewski compiled sea ice lists from Barrow, Wainwright, and Shishmaref we used to compare people’s knowledge of ice in various Alaskan communities. Hajo Eicken, Shari Gearheard, and Gita Laidler kindly read the first draft of this chapter; Carol Jolles, Amber Lincoln, and Matthew Druckenmiller shared their photographs for the dictionary. Matt also produced a map that is used as illustration. We thank you all, Quyana!


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Wales Native CorporationWalesUSA

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