Translations can be difficult

February 19, 2010 

To show that the old approach to helping Yup'ik speakers at the ballot booth wasn't working, lawyers asked poll workers to translate a 2002 ballot question about the creation of a gas pipeline authority.

Here's what the original ballot question said:

"Initiative on Gas Pipeline Development Authority. This bill would create the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority (Authority) as a public corporation of the State. The Authority would acquire and condition North Slope natural gas, and construct a pipeline to transport the gas. The Authority's powers would include buying property or taking it by eminent domain, and to issue state tax-exempt revenue bonds. The gasline route would be from Prudhoe Bay to tidewater on Prince William Sound and the spur line from Glennallen to the Southcentral gas distribution grid. The Authority would operate and maintain the gas pipeline, ship the gas, and market the gas. Should this initiative become law?"

Here's a part of the interpretation provided by one of the poll workers, whose job was to help Yup'ik speakers understand the question; the words in quotes were English words used by the interpreter, who was at a loss for a Yup'ik word:

" 'This Initiative on Gas Pipeline Development Authority.' This thing that needs to be made, this, that needs to be followed, this the path for the 'gas,' this the 'gas,' the one that is not water, but is a ... gas in the stomach, that can be used to the point where it can become fire. This, to our big lands authority and to the whole population, it will get (pause). These leaders will be able to take and finish from the place to our North, this gas in the stomach, 'gas,' they'll be able to take from there and take it to the place where it will be stored, where it will be its place. Those leaders power will include the purchase of land or (pause) it will take the things that are underground, they will take away from that person. They will work till completion, this our lands 'tax' (pause) 'tax, tax, tax,' will be non-'tax'able towards this thing. ..."

Source: The Native American Rights Fund

Anchorage Daily News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service