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Educator preserving regional Inupiaq dialect receives Governor's Arts and Humanities Award

Roy Aglowinga (Courtesy photo)

Roy Agloinga was a recipient of a Governor’s Arts and Humanities award last week for his work in education. But for decades, Agloinga has been preserving his region’s dialect of Inupiaq by recording and compiling phrases into an Inupiat Dictionary.

When Agloinga received the Governor’s Arts and Humanities Distinguished Service award in education for his work in language preservation, he said he was shocked.

“I was pretty startled and really really happy,” exclaimed Agloinga. “Not only for myself, but because there is so much recognition around language preservation that needs to happen. There’s so many good people in the state that are doing this kind of work, and I wanted to have a little chance to recognize our Elders from White Mountain, Solomon, Council and Mary’s Igloo who really contributed a lot to the language preservation work that we’re doing.”

Agloinga is originally from White Mountain, a community that shares a dialect of Qawairaq Inupiaq with nearby communities like Mary’s Igloo, Solomon and Teller. His dialect is at risk of dying off.

“There are some people who, I think, can speak the dialect. But the original speakers, I think there are only three left. And I’m still a learner,” Agloinga said.

Agloinga is one of the last people to spend time with native speakers of Igaluik. So over the last 30 years, he has worked alongside Luanne Harrelson and others to co-author the Qawiaraq Iġałuik Inupiat Dictionary.