Monday, October 26, 2009

Aciryaraq "How to name"

Question: How did you get your name?

I find naming practices in the Cup'ik/Yup'ik culture absolutely fascinating! So much so that I even wrote a 17 page paper on it in my Oral Sources class senior year at UAF. My finding: there's still an awful lot more for me to learn here.

Often people get more than one name. A friend of mine is named Paangelria "Rower". That is the name she goes by. However, she has another, "secret", name Ananagaq. Only her mother knows that name of hers.

Names are usually given after someone dies. The deceased's name, ateq, must then be given to someone else. I imagine this could be to someone older or a newborn, either way. In a sense, I think it's the deceased's spirit that is being given back to life. I really wonder if this is what it was like traditionally and whether or not people still see it this way.

My college advisor, Walkie, would always tell me about his namesake. His name is Kumaggaq, who was a woman who helped the likes of Father Lineux write Yup'ik and translate the Bible. Now, Walkie carries on that "spirit" by teaching the Yup'ik language including writing and everything. Further, Kumaggaq was a woman so people sometimes know him by that name Arnaq "woman".

Oftentimes the relationship of the recipient of a name and the namesake's kin will continue that relationship. For example, a baby might be called "Grandpa" because his/her name was somebody's grandpa before he died.

To me, this all seems to delve deeply into Cup'ik/Yup'ik metaphysics. Their metaphysics-I've had explained-is circular in nature. If treated right, animal spirits would return out into a newborn thus creating a cycle of life and death. Now I'm not sure but my impression is that it's similar with humans yuut/cuut and their namesakes.

If asking someone their name, you could even ask Kituuga atren?, which literally translates as "Who is your name?" but may be better translated as "Who is your namesake?" Maybe there's an implication here that the spirit in some sense lives in the name...Maybe.


1 comment:

  1. My Yup'ik name is Qen'gauq. A classmate named me that after her mother's brother, who had passed away. I didn't really understand anything about naming or the Yup'ik culture at that time. It was weird for me to accept it. It took me a while to do so,but it quickly took root once it did.
    Names are very regional; they can even belong to a particular village. Nobody in Chevak recognized my Yup'ik name one bit. On Wednesday, however, I met a lady visiting from Napaskiaq, a village just down river from Bethel. After I told her my name, she was elated. She told me that that was her great grandma's name and that she could tell her grandson that he has another "aana" or mother.
    She also mentioned that her great grandmother "Qen'gauq" was a healer. She seemed to imply that I had that similar characteristic. This seems to jive with what others have said about me. One lady praying for me told me, "I feel heeling in your hands." One part of "Dances with Wolves" I identify with most is the part where the Sioux are talking about who Lt. John Dunbar is. One concludes that he's there to "make medicine". Interesting! It's also interesting how healing can take many forms depending on the context.