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News  Release

Northwest Planning, LLC

A new survey has launched to gather input from Inuit language learners and speakers on the intersection of Indigenous language development and community involvement. The survey is online and can be accessed at www.nwplanning.net/survey.html with responses due by June 3, 2022.

Alaska is home to more than 20 Indigenous languages, yet nearly all are classified as severely vulnerable or endangered. At the same time, community involvement, like voting, is often declining with low turnout. Is there a relationship between these two issues?

Professor Paasha Mahdavi, from the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), is researching to understand these issues. Professor Mahdavi said, “While precise numbers are difficult to obtain, it is estimated that less than 20% of Alaska Natives fluently speak a heritage language. This is particularly problematic among youth. Social science research shows that cultural education — including language acquisition — may a key driver in civic engagement and active participation among Alaska Native and American Indian communities.”

He is collaborating with Ukallaysaaq T. Okleasik, Inupiaq and founder of Northwest Planning, LLC based in Nome (Alaska), in a new survey with a goal to help understand Inuit views and experiences of language learning and public involvement. Ukallaysaaq shares, “Language is more than language. Language reflects identity, culture, and heritage. Language may also support how Inuit could be better involved in home communities from cultural activities to voting. As an Indigenous planner, I am looking forward to hearing from Inuit across Alaska through the survey which can help with language efforts and civic engagement.”

The survey is confidential and voluntary while honoring respect, relevance, reciprocity, responsibility, and relationality. Key questions associated with the survey include: what solutions exist to improve language acquisition? How effective are these solutions across different Alaska Native communities? How has this linguistic emergency impacted participation in the community and in political affairs?

Contacts

Professor Paasha Mahdavi, University of California Santa Barbara, email paasha@ucsb.edu.

Ukallaysaaq T. Okleasik, Northwest Planning, LLC, email ukallaysaaq@nwplanning.net

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