Nunivak Island Cup'ig Gospel Songs
Language and Music Preservation Project
Nunivak Island is a remote island in the Bering Sea, the residents speak Cup’ig, a distinct dialect of Central Yup’ik. The Cup’ig dialect is a unique language, no one on earth speaks the language except the people from Nunivak Island. With the violence of colonization came language shift and repression of Nunivak Cup'ig. Ultimately, once the language is no longer used it will be lost forever. Reclaiming the language and actively passing on traditions is key to cultural vibrancy, sustainability, and the overall mental, spiritual, and physical health of current residents and future generations.
This project was designed to preserve, revitalize, and enhance the use of the Cup’ig language. Muriel Nussaalar Amos and Howard Nakaar Amos reached out to the project team for assistance with preserving quickly deteriorating cassette tapes that contained recordings of Cup’ig gospel hymns sung by Cup’ig Elders.
The sound-tracks of Cup’ig gospel hymns on cassette audiotapes were recorded by Nona Amos who was encouraged by her brother Harry Mike in the early 1990’s. Although there may be indifferences documenting religious songs, the songs were translated by Cup’ig people of Nunivak in the mid 1930’s when the Cup’ig language was hardly influenced by other mainland communities. This will connect the elders and youth to strengthen the Cup’ig language.
To be unique in any form is well worth the effort to document, publish and revitalize. This project is one method for documenting words traditionally used in the Cup’ig language. To preserve and revitalize the Cup’ig language ensures documentation of traditional Cup’ig words that allows the language and songs to be shared with the next generation of Nunivak people.
The images in the slideshow are of pictographs that correspond to some of the gospel songs. These pictographs are a testament to the innovation and deep understanding of concepts that intersect across cultures. These are only a sample of the hundreds pf pictographs that have now been preserved digitally as part of this project.
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