When a powerful storm damaged homes, boats, and subsistence resources in Alaska in September 2022, the Federal Emergency Management Agency decided to translate information about assistance into two Indigenous languages spoken in the region.
But, as Emily Schwing reports, those translations were useless to Alaska Native people.
Gary Holton spent 20 years documenting Alaska Native languages at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks’ Alaska Native language Center.
He says what FEMA thought were translations have nothing to do with disaster recovery.
“The only thing you might gather from that is there are a couple of dates, but you wouldn’t know what those dates are for. So yeah, I would say the only useful bit of information in there might be if there’s a reference to a website or something.”
FEMA paid a California-based translation service company, Accent on Languages, nearly $30,000 to translate information about how to apply for disaster assistance into both the Central Yup’ik dialect and Iñupiaq.
At least six different documents that were supposed to be translated, were actually just a mish-mash of phrases and lines lifted directly out of a more than 80-year-old book of Indigenous folklore and language spoken in Far East Russia.
Tara Sweeney served as the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs under the Trump administration and her great-grandfather created the Iñupiaq alphabet.
“It’s a problem for underrepresented minority communities if this is the type of information that’s being disseminated and people can’t even understand it, services to American citizens are being denied, especially in time of need. That is egregious.”
These documents were supposed to offer information on how to apply for financial assistance for people whose homes were damaged and who lost subsistence fishing and hunting equipment as well as the foods they’d been storing for winter.
Sweeney says it’s even worse than that.
“There’s a lot of that historical trauma of being beaten in schools, because they were speaking their Indigenous languages, which is why there’s a generation of us in Alaska that struggle with fluency.”
After the agency discovered the mistake, FEMA removed the mistranslated documents from its website.
The agency also hired an Alaska-based company to continue the work.
To date, FEMA has paid an average of $8,000 per applicant to people whose applications for relief were approved.
To put that into perspective, the agency paid the original translation service three times that amount.
The remains of a Yakama Nation woman who went missing nearly 40 years ago have been positively identified, King 5 News reports.
Daisy Mae Tallman, known as Daisy Mae Heath, was 29 when she went missing in the late-1980s.
Her remains were found 2008 near White Swan, WA.
A private DNA laboratory recently used advanced testing to identify the remains.
The county coroner says her death remains undetermined.
Lakota actor Mo Brings Plenty is among the presenters for the 80th Annual Golden Globes Awards taking place in Los Angeles Tuesday night.
Brings Plenty is well-known for his self-titled role in the television series “Yellowstone.”
The Golden Globes recognizes excellence in film and television.
The ceremony will air live on NBC and will stream on Peacock.
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