More than 20 Elders from five Iliamna Lake communities participated in the Iliamna Lake Place Names Workshop at the Newhalen Teen Center in May 2018. Local Tribal Councils of Iliamna, Newhalen, Kokhanok, Igiugig, and Levelock established the Iliamna Lake Place Names Committee with Yoko Kugo, Ph. D. student, to review all the varied place names of the Iliamna Lake region, and to ensure all the shared knowledge is retained.
This project originated with Kugo’s 2016 fieldwork where she conducted a community-based Iliamna Lake place names study, which consisted of recording local Yup’ik and English place names and oral narratives about these places with locals (funded by University of Alaska Fairbanks Center for Global Change and National Science Foundation (No. 1640812). It was learned that some Elders refer to a place using different names based on their personal experiences and from those who taught them about those places. With the committee’s support, Igiugig and Kokhanok Village Councils received two Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation Place Names Grants to organize the workshop and to publish a map of Iliamna Lake Place Names.
During the workshop, Elders shared their life histories with others and reported how they learned about place names. Elders often acknowledged how some places were known by multiple names. The workshop also awarded some high school students scholarships and gave them opportunities to learn local histories from the Elders. The Iliamna Lake Place Names Committee would like to honor the late elders Charlie Andrew (Levelock) and Mary Wassillie who participated in the various place names workshops. They would also thank Yup’ik translators Evelyn Yanez and Walkie Charles for their transcribing expertise during the workshop.
In October, Kokhanok artist Marlene Nielsen designed a map of Iliamna Lake. She painted some landmarks that are important for locals who travel around the lake. Presenting local Yup’ik and Dena’ina place names on the locally designed map will assist locals in sharing an important part of their cultural heritage.
At SCF, culture is incorporated into the foundation of all services provided. Honoring traditional place names is just one example of how culture can be preserved and support a community’s journey toward wellness. SCF looks forward to continuing to celebrate, partner, and support efforts that help preserve culture and achieve wellness.