With a steady decline in the number of Alaska Natives who have lived the traditional subsistence lifestyle and can speak the Sugcestun (pronounced: sooks-tun) language the culture and traditions of the Chenega people need to be preserved and passed on in order to survive
Chenega is very unique and their Sugcestun language is referred to as similar to the Yupik language dialect. Chenega Sugcestun speakers can understand some of the Yupik language.
According Dr. Michael Kraus, author of the Alaska Native Language Map, Sugpiaq is one of the twenty major Alaska Native language groups, like Yupik or Ahtna or Tlingit. Sugcestun is a cultural term used by the Native Peoples of Prince William Sound to refer to their language, especially the local indigenous dialects such as that found in Chenega Bay. Thus, they are used interchangeably.
The Sugcestun Language and Cultural History Preservation Project committee’s mission is to preserve, strengthen, enhance and teach the Sugcestun language and cultural history for the present and future generation of the Prince William Sound Sugpiat.
The Sugcestun Language and Cultural History Preservation Project committee’s vision is to capture our Sugpiat history and to teach our future Sugpiat through the preservation of our Sugcestun language and cultural heritage.
In 2004, the Chenega Corporation Board launched the Chenega Culture Preservation Program to address that need. A committee of Chenega Elders and Chenega youth engaged in strategic planning to develop a mission and vision for this culture preservation and goals and an action plan to achieve them. The original goals identified were:
- Record Elders knowledge of Sugcestun language and cultural heritage.
- Create opportunities to revitalize and revive traditional Alutiiq practices of religion, subsistence, education and community values.
- Reintroduce a Sugcestun Language & Culture Preservation Program in the Chenega Bay School.
The Chenega Culture Preservation Program has completed the following projects so far:
In 2006, The Day That Cries Forever was published. This compilation of first person accounts of the deadly 1964 earthquake and tsunamis that hit Chenega Island. The book received national claim and recognition.
In 2007, We Are the Land We Are the Sea was published. This compilation is stories of subsistence from the People of Chenega, Alaska.
Produced 12 Language Posters with CD of pronunciations These Posters and CD compilations are of the pronunciations and phonetic spelling of the Chenega Sugcestun Native Language.
Created CD of Russian Orthodox Christmas Songs The Russian Christmas tradition celebrated in Alaska was brought over by Russian frontiersman from the Ukraine, in the 1600’s. Russian Christmas, like American Christmas, is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is celebrated 13 days after December 25th, on January 7, 8 and 9. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar which calculates Christmas 13 days after the Gregorian calendar.
Produced Subsistence Calendar, which documented the times for subsistence harvesting in, and around, Chenega and included recipes from our elders.
2011, Chenega Diaries: Stories and Voices of Our Past. This full color photo book and documentary DVD uses children’s diary entries, archived correspondence and photographs to document subsistence life in Prince William Sound. Stories, myths, memories, recipes, and more from Chenega Elders were collected and added to the book, documentary and website, www.ChenegaDiaries.com. With this project we also branched out into the community, sharing this publication package with teachers and administrators at the Chugach School District and statewide through the Alaska State Library System, sharing the Chenega story far and wide.
Please note: The Chenega Diaries DVD plays best in a DVD player and may not work in all computers.
Today, the Chenega Culture Preservation Program (CCPP) is ongoing, meeting annually to capture the memories and experiences of the Chenega Elders and pass them down to descendants and also to archive them in various media formats for the benefit of generations to come
- Chenega Orthodox Christian Traditions manual is being created
- Archeological survey of artifacts on Chenega Island with the US Forrest Service
- Documented and compiled local location Sugcestun names in Chenega
- Information is being collected for a dictionary database of the Chenega’s Sugcestun language
Grant funding is essential to many of these initiatives in addition to the financial support provided by Chenega Corporation.
To make a donation, contribute materials or for more information on the program initiatives, please contact Chenega Future, Inc. at Shareholder Services at email@example.com