Yup’ik Spelling Bee Inspires Inupiaq Spelling Bee

Apr 15, 2021

From left to right: First place winner Angniun Opriann Lomack of Akiachak, second place winner Akagaralria Auna Friday of Chevak, and third place winnter Allirkaar Richelle Phillip of Akiachak.
Credit Max Dan

It’s been 10 years since the first Statewide Yup’ik Spelling Bee was held, and it will expand to include Inupiat spellers on April 17. Freda Dan, who organized the first Yup’ik Spelling Bee, said that the Inupiaq competition is the result of the efforts of one community: Brevig Mission.

“Brevig Mission managed to go through the mock school in District B,” said Dan. “So now we’re going to finish the cycle with a statewide spelling bee for them.”

The rules in this spelling bee are a bit different. Dan said that competitors are not eliminated if they spell a word wrong. Instead, the winner is the person who spells the most words correctly.

“Spellers are given a point for correct spelling, and we continue until we see a clear first, second, and third. And a lot of times we’ll have to do a tie-breaker after a while,” said Dan.

Dan, who did not grow up speaking Yup’ik, began the spelling bee to help herself and her children reconnect to their traditional language. Since then, the spelling bee has encouraged many to learn to speak, read, write and spell in their Native language.

The 2021 Statewide Yup'ik and Inupiaq Spelling Bee takes place Saturday, April 17 in Anchorage.