Follow four Alaska Native women fighting to save Kodiak Alutiiq, an endangered language spoken by fewer than 40 remaining fluent Native elders. On remote Afognak Island, they inspire young people to learn the language and dances of their ancestors.
Fluent Alutiiq Elder Phyllis does not mess around. In this deleted scene from the Keep Talking film, she conducts a “language fishing session” in her home. Adult learners Candace and Gayla try to keep up with her as her words fly faster than Bruce Lee’s fists.
Do you ever wonder who may be nearby, just outside of your line of sight? In some Alutiiq traditional stories, there are magical beings known as the Sungcuk, or “little people.” Narrated by Alisha Drabek, Ph.D., Candace Branson, and Alutiiq Elder Florence Pestrikoff, featuring art by Alutiiq artist Hanna Sholl and music by Marcella Se’iga Liimii Asicksik and the Alaska Native Heritage Center.
Eli is an Alaska Native who learns carving skills at Dig Afognak camp. The instructor is Alutiiq Anthropologist Sven Haakanson Jr., Ph.D. who has gotten his knowledge of carving and mask making from records that go back 400 years. Eli is thrilled with the halibut hook he carves, and a year later he reflects on the impact of camp and being around his people.
Michael Bach came to be accepted by the Alutiiq community after investing countless hours in learning the Alutiiq language, working with Elders, teaching kids and generally earning respect. Here he reflects with Alutiiq friend and teacher Marya that while being an outsider isn’t easy, compassionate outsider interactions are necessary for healing to take place.
"Where Are Your Keys?" is a language learning and teaching technique created by Evan Gardner. This technique came to the Kodiak Alutiiq community in Alaska after countless other methods had been tried with limited success, but they found that for their language revitalization movement, this one seemed to take them the furthest.
Echo, 14, is a student in Kodiak, Alaska. In this deleted scene from the Keep Talking film, her mother Tonya picks her up from high school and takes her home where she continues her schoolwork in English. As they prepare dinner together, they practice Alutiiq together, and Tonya expresses pride in her daughter’s pursuit of learning their traditional language.
At a camp in Alaska, Alutiiq dancer Candace Branson drums as a few men and boys sing a traditional Alutiiq song. She has watched these men grow empowered through dance, and the boys at the camp are inspired, yet worried about a stigma that dancing is not for boys. However, as they are learning, dancing is indeed, for men.
At a camp in Alaska, indigenous kids debate the creation of a new word (they are mostly Alaska Native Kodiak Alutiiq, aka Sugpiaq). They try to decide what new Alutiiq word for “tweet” makes the most sense to them. An ethnographer, three brothers at the camp, and a fluent Elder all weigh in; finally, we visit a New Words Council where the Elders would make a new word “official.”