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After a powerful typhoon slammed into Alaska’s west coast in September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, tried to offer information about how to apply for disaster recovery assistance in two Alaska Native languages, but those translations weren’t useful to any Indigenous language speakers in the state.
Emily Schwing reports.
Dozens of Alaska Native villages along the state’s west coast were hit hard by Typhoon Merbok, so FEMA hired a California-based company to translate press releases and documents about how to apply for disaster recovery funds into Yup’ik.
The agency also asked for Iñupiaq translations.
Tom Kempton is a FEMA spokesman.
“And it wasn’t until we started doing some of those translations that – I don’t speak, you know, Yup’ik. What we were seeing coming back, I mean, when I first saw the Inupiat ones, I was like, What is this? It was all like hieroglyphic.”
Indigenous language speakers across Alaska didn’t recognize the languages.
Linguist Gary Holton spent twenty years at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Alaska Native Language Center. He says someone lifted full phrases from an 80-year-old compilation of folklore and language that was printed in the Soviet Union.
“I mean imagine if someone, you know, took all of your folktales and then interviewed your great grandmother about her experiences growing up and had all of this information recorded and wrote it down and then scrambled it and stuck it in various different ways and made kind of a collage out of it. It’s, it’s kind of yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s offensive.”
Tara Sweeney is the former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs under the Trump Administration. She calls the work a waste of federal funds.
“That’s egregious. I’m absolutely speechless. I cannot believe that. A contractor would put something like this together for the federal government and that there is no verification of whether this is accurate. And that the federal government would actually issue this as a work product of their own.”
According to FEMA, the agency paid $27,800 to a company called Accent on Languages for the work that was supposed to help fluent Indigenous speakers apply for financial assistance following Typhoon Merbok.
A Saskatoon woman has decided to have her trail heard by a judge.
Dawn Walker is accused of abducting her child and having their deaths faked. She is charged with public mischief, parental abduction and identity fraud.
Dan Karpenchuk reports.
Walker and her 7-year-old son were reported missing in July, after a search of two weeks they were found safe in Oregon. That after she illegally crossed the border into the U.S. Authorities there have also brought charges against her.
She was returned to Saskatoon in August, where she has waived her right to jury trial and elected to have her case heard by a judge.
Ari Goldkind is a criminal defense lawyer. He said going before a judge alone is a tactical decision.
“When you have all the things that a jury this woman allegedly did, the list, that may be something the jury may really dislike particularly is there a divorced dad or two on that jury that hears what she did or who has been through a custody battle.”
A U.S. official says Walker also stole the identity of a close friend to open a bank account as part of an abduction plan.
Walker is believed to have been in a custody battle with her son’s father.
Her trial dates will likely be set this week.
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