History Comes to Life...with Your Help!

Gwendolyn MacLean, a 7th grader at Mears Middle School in Anchorage, dug into her own family history to find a topic for last year’s National History Day competition. Her performance, "My Language, My Culture: Edna MacLean Takes a Stand to Preserve Iñupiaq Language" tells the story of MacLean's grandmother, Edna MacLean, who created the first Iñupiaq to English dictionary.

"She grew up in an environment where her native language was kind of put down as a shame to be speaking so they enforced English upon them,” explains MacLean. “And so she ended up becoming a teacher of Iñupiaq and she decided to create an Iñupiaq to English dictionary. My grandmother dedicated her life to saving the Iñupiaq language. She dedicated her life to saving the language of her childhood and culture.”

MacLean's project earned her first place in the Junior Individual Performance division of the Alaska History Day contest, now coordinated by the Forum, and the chance to travel to Washington, DC where she competed at the national level.

This year's state contest is between March 23-30, and will feature more than 100 projects from students around the state. We are currently looking for judges to help evaluate projects and give students valuable feedback that will help them either progress to the national contest or improve their work next year.

This is an ideal volunteer opportunity for a busy person who is interested in history and who wants to support a hard-working Alaskan student. Judges can work from anywhere with a reliable internet connection at any time during the week of March 23-30. The minimum time commitment during that week is one hour, and judges from all professions are welcome. If you are interested in joining our network of judges, please visit www.akhf.org/ahd or contact Amanda Dale at (907) 272-5503/adale@akhf.org.

"History Day is an amazing opportunity." MacLean continues. "After I did my performance, a couple students came up to me and thanked me for doing it. I’ve grown up hearing Iñupiaq, and I don’t ever want that to be gone. It’s not just a language; it’s an entire culture, it’s a way of living."


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