2013 High School Speech

2013 High School Speech
Posted on 10/31/2013
This is the image for the news article titled 2013 High School SpeechWritten by Tammy Schneidler 

Freeze-up, funerals, parent conferences, illnesses, sports travel, and an extremely busy group of participants (including their coach!) all contributed to a very late start for the Akiuk HS Speech Team. Were we ready? I doubted it. Had I helped them prepare and practice sufficiently? I didn’t think so. These were the questions and 
worries in my mind as we pulled on winter boots and zipped heavy jackets, gearing up to cross the freezing river on our Speech Contest Adventure last week.

Thankfully, we crossed the river safely. Thankfully, we landed in Bethel when the fog and snow lifted just long enough for us to get in. Thankfully, I watched as seven students stepped up and took initiative in preparing themselves to perform their speeches with excellence.

I could tell you about the ribbon and four trophies we brought home. I could tell you that out of eight categories in the district-wide contest, we took first place in three. But better than either of those stats are the people of character that I watched represent our school in Bethel this past Tuesday-Friday.

After three hours of travel to reach Bethel, we were motion-sick, cold and hungry. Rather than complaining, students loaded bags into an over-crowded bus, smiled, and crammed into seats. At the D.O., they urged me to find them a room, where -at students’ initiative - each person practiced their speech in front of the group, while listeners scored them meticulously with a rubric and, later, offered encouragement and precise, helpful suggestions for improvement. 

Personal responsibility and initiative marked our group. As I watched our kids, for the umpteenth time, lug bags to and from BRHS that were not their own, clean up and set-up an area after just one request for help, and put each others’ needs before 
their own, I thought to myself that if there were a sportsmanship award at speech, we could have earned it. Patience, respect, and helpfulness - I observed our kids exhibit these traits again and again. I was thankful to be their chaperone. And on top of all that, even their speeches were excellent.
Speech students
Here is the transcript of Timotheen's speech. 
Did you know Yupik language is fading more and more every year? Even with my family and I.

21,000 Yup’iks and only 10,000 are speakers, according to UAF Alaska Native Languages Center. That means less than half of Yup’iks speak their language. Less than half! What are the rest of us doing with our language?

Also according to UAF, out of 20 Native languages in Alaska, there are only two that are being learned by children. What this means for the future of our language is that we could have no more Yup’ik speakers - not one. We’d all be speaking English. 

How boring! Don’t some of us want to be different from the rest of the world? I do. 

Speaking Yup’ik is different, one of the hardest languages to learn. And hardly anyone in the world speaks it. I want to be one of the few who do.

I think we should be teaching the little ones to speak it. If we don’t, what will happen next? What else will we lose? Will we still have our skills we do now? Will our dancing go away? If we would teach them these things now, it would be easier for them in the future. I think the elders would be proud, too, especially because they’ve passed our language and traditions down from generation to generation. We should be a part of that generation and teach little kids too. 

Language shows a certain perspective of the world, so as Yup’ik language is lost, 
some of the knowledge and our way of thinking is being lost too. Maybe there are certain ideas or ways of thinking that are more clear in the Yup’ik language. We might try to translate them into English, but some of the meaning gets lost when we do that. For example, ellanglemni. When I became aware. The word in Yup’ik has to do with ella – which is outside, ones surroundings, and maybe also ellamua, which has to do with the spirit. So in Yup’ik when you say, ellanglemni, it means the time when you have a lasting memory – related to your surroundings, the outside, and it is a spiritual experience. But in English, when you say, “I became aware,” it loses something. When you became aware of what? When you realized something, or figured out something? In English, it does not speak of a personal or spiritual awakening. It refers to a one-time experience that isn’t necessarily important. In Yugtun, ellangllemni means much much more.

According to the UAF Alaska Native Languages Center, we, the people of the 
Kuskokwim area, are one of the groups that have grown up speaking Yup’ik as our first language. I remember growing up hearing and speaking our Yupik language, all day, 24/7. When I moved to Anchorage, I was in elementary and I had to be in a bilingual class because I grew up speaking my language and I didn’t know English quite as well yet. Then later in the future, I started to use English, and I kind of lost my language, which is sad because I’m a Yup’ik, I personally think I should be fluent in it. Maybe that’s what happened to other speakers, too: they needed to speak English to understand in school or in the world around them, and then they began losing the language they first spoke. But if we all do that, and if our children do that, what will happen? We will have no language to return to.

I have a younger brother who is 14 years old. As he was growing up, we moved to Kodiak, and Anchorage, cities where almost no one spoke Yup’ik. These schools had mixed cultures and everyone spoke English. I guess we never talked in Yup’ik, mostly because we were learning it and we were getting used to it. Recently, I questioned him and asked how he felt about not being fluent in Yup’ik. He said that he wishes he could understand and speak fluently. I’m the oldest, and he’s the middle child. There are three of us and out of the three of us, he’s the one who knows the least Yup’ik, or speaks the least of it. Sometimes he tries to talk, but then he gives up because he thinks somebody might end up laughing at him, or he thinks he might be getting laughed at. We try to encourage him to speak, and once in a while he says a word or two in Yupik; it makes my parents proud, it makes me proud, too. Although he’s nervous to try, trying is better than nothing. Helping him is my goal.

It is important to speak our Yup’ik language because it’s our language, our culture and our tradition. Just like I said earlier, we’re the one’s who are supposed to be handing it down to the younger ones. Elders have done that for generations. Now it’s our turn. It might be hard, especially in school, but we can still practice it inside and outside of the school building, too. Helping others is a great way to start. Encouraging my brother is one place where I’m starting.

You might be thinking in your head, why isn’t she doing this in Yup’ik? She is 
talking about keeping the Yup’ik language alive, so shouldn’t she be talking about it in Yupik? Such a hypocrite! Well, first of all, I’m not doing this in Yup’ik because I know that there are so many Yup’ik people who might have a hard time understanding. Those people wouldn’t go listen to the Yup’ik language speeches. They are listening to the English ones! And, to be honest, another reason that my speech isn’t in Yup’ik is because I too have forgotten how to speak it fluently and quickly, and to tell the truth, I’m practicing too, not just at school, but at home. I wanted to at least try to do this in Yupik, but maybe that is a more realistic goal for me next year.

For those of you who know how to speak our language, speak it! Don’t be ashamed of who you are and what your culture is. Teach other people! We don’t want our language lost, because with it we will lose a piece of our culture, and of ourselves. I will try and try to learn and speak, even if I fail. At least I’m trying. I am Yup’ik – a Yup’ik speaker! - and I am very proud of that. So let’s work together to stop our language from fading. Together, we can stop our language loss. 

Akiuk Speech Group
Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2017 West Corporation. All rights reserved.