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Seeking Learners For Unangam Tunuu Language Camp

John Ryan

Organizers of the inaugural UnangamTunuu Download Camp are inviting interested participants to attend a two-week-long language camp this summer on St. Paul Island in the Pribilofs.

Aquilina Lestenkof is director of the cultural affairs office for the tribal government of St. Paul Island. She's looking for six teams from eastern Aleutian Unangan communities to attend the all-expenses-paid camp. In early March she sent out a letter describing the effort for revitalization of the language.

"We did invite participation from Unalaska, Nikolski, Akutan, King Cove, Sand Point...and the connected communities such as Belkofski and tribal organizations that are not necessarily their communities," Lestenkof said. "We're hoping for at least 12 people - six teams - to come to St. Paul and we're hoping at least two people from Unalaska will join us."

Lestenkof says for the past couple of years, the tribal government has been building a language program in partnership with the St. Paul school district and the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association.

She says last summer there was a language intensive session on St. Paul with local teens. Off-island folks took part as well, but attendance was sporadic.

"In hindsight we realized that was a little difficult to do, that instead we should probably focus a period of time in which people from off-island could come and retrieve the lessons that we've been building," Lestenkof said. "Hence the idea of a two-week Unangam Tunuu download camp."

Lestenkof says the involvement of young Unangan people is a must in keeping the language alive.

"One of the strong components of this project is that if you are going to be part of the program, learning Unangam Tunuu, that you have to teach it off to others," she said.

The camp is funded from grants from the Central Bering Sea Fishermen's Association and the Aleut Foundation. That funding covers airfare and two-week of meals and housing. The only cost for participants would be a hotel room in Anchorage for one or two nights.

Those interested in learning more should contact the Qawalangin Tribe office. The deadline to apply is May 6.