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Quyana for Alaska's new official languages: 'The Words of Earth'

Don Rearden
A city park sign in Anchorage. The word "Quyana" means "thank you" in Yup'ik and Cup'ik, languages indigenous to Southwest Alaska. Courtesy Don Rearden

Editor's note: The following poem was written the morning that the Alaska Legislature declared Alaska's indigenous languages as official state languages in addition to English.

 

The Words of Earth

when the words of the earth
fail to move the tongues
of those meant to speak
we lose more than language

when the words of the earth
fail to reach the ears
of those meant to hear
we lose more than a culture

when the words of the earth
fail to reach the hearts
of those meant to know
we lose our souls


Don Rearden, author of the novel "The Raven's Gift," grew up in Southwest Alaska and now lives and writes in Anchorage. The preceding work first appeared on his blog and is republished here with permission.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.