Statewide Yup’ik Spelling Bee expands to include Iñupiaq competition

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

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

“Brevig Mission managed to go through the mock school in District B,” Dan said. “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 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 Iñupiaq Spelling Bee takes place Saturday, April 17 in Anchorage.

Read next