Cugtun Alngautat: The History and Development of a Picture Text among the Nuniwarmiut Eskimo, Nunivak Island, Alaska

Dennis G. Griffin

Abstract

Native Americans have long relied on the oral transmission of their ideas rather than developing an alphabet and a reliance on written records. While the use of pictures to communicate basic concepts is found throughout Alaska during the historic contact period, the development of an alphabet or pictorial text among Natives in Alaska is extremely limited with examples found only in the Kuskokwim Delta (ca. 1901) and Seward Peninsula (ca. 1914). The later appearance of a pictorial text on Nunivak Island (ca. 1940) is believed to have derived from the Seward Peninsula style. Each of these texts is believed to have originated from the influence of missionaries. This paper traces the appearance and development of a picture text among the Nuniwarmiut Eskimo on Nunivak Island and its current status in the Mekoryuk community.

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