SIKU: Knowing Our Ice

pp 321-354


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

  • Igor KrupnikAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution Email author 
  • , Winton (Utuktaaq) WeyapukJrAffiliated withWales Native Corporation

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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