"My name is Ayaprun, one of 13 Yup’ik names. My baptismal name is Ludwina, but then during high school, they started calling me Lottie, so I started being known as Lottie Jones, originally from Scammon Bay, Alaska. I’m one of nine sisters and a brother, which includes two adopted brothers and an adopted sister, so 13 in the family. I was the first to graduate from high school, then the first to graduate from college—in fact, in the whole village.
I went to college on campus at UAF (University of Alaska Fairbanks), got my degree in 1972, and I have been teaching here ever since. From 1972-90 it was Kindergarten English. From 1992-95, I taught YSL—that’s Yup’ik as a second language.
[My mother's] biggest peeve was: “I need to get a translator to talk to my own grandchildren, my great grandchildren.” She didn’t like that. Thinking about that made me want to work harder to change that.
It seems like the bigger our school becomes, the harder we must work to make the Yup’ik language really productive. When we were in the small building, kids didn’t hear any English because we were in a closed environment. Now we need to really work on having them speak more Yup’ik. Listen to what those kids are speaking out there in the hall—English. I dream in Yup’ik.
You can be a real Yup’ik even if you don’t speak your language, because what if the opportunity to speak it wasn’t there? But yet you live your subsistence lifestyle—that’s Yup’ik. But to make that element whole, you need the language, the lifestyle, and the culture. Never think you are not Yup’ik because you can’t speak the language.
You might think I’m a fluent speaker, but when I was with my mother, I was always asking, 'What does that mean?'"--Ludwina Jones, Yup’ik Language Immersion Teacher at the Ayaprun Elitnaurvik School in Bethel, Alaska.
- © Brian Adams
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