Chenega Culture Preservation Program
With a steady decline in the number of Alaska Natives who have lived the traditional subsistence lifestyle and can speak the Sugcestun (pronounced: sooks-tun) language, the culture and traditions of the Chenega people need to be preserved and passed on in order to survive.
Chenega is very unique and their Sugcestun language is referred to as similar to the Yupik language dialect. Chenega Sugcestun speakers can understand some of the Yupik language.
According to Dr. Michael Kraus, author of the Alaska Native Language Map, Sugpiaq is one of the twenty major Alaska Native language groups, like Yupik, Ahtna or Tlingit. Sugcestun is a cultural term used by the Native Peoples of Prince William Sound to refer to their language, especially the local indigenous dialects such as that found in Chenega, thus they are used interchangeably.
Today, the Chenega Culture Preservation Program is ongoing, to capture the memories and experiences of the Chenega Elders and develop ways to pass them down to descendants for the benefit of generations to come.
In 2004, the Chenega Corporation board launched the Chenega Culture Preservation Program. A committee of Chenega Elders and youth engaged in strategic planning to develop a mission and vision for this culture preservation and goals and an action plan to achieve them. The original goals identified were:
- Record Elders’ knowledge of Sugcestun language and cultural heritage.
- Create opportunities to revitalize and revive traditional Alutiiq practices of religion, subsistence, education and community values.
- Reintroduce a Sugcestun Language & Culture Preservation Program in the Chenega School.
To preserve, strengthen, enhance and teach the Sugcestun language and cultural history for the present and future generations of the Prince William Sound Sugpiaq.
To capture our Sugpiat history and to teach our future Sugpiaq through the preservation of our Sugcestun language and cultural heritage.