A TAX­ING MO­MENT IN YUP’IK

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

Alaska is cur­rently wrestling with a na­tive lan­guage chal­lenge: how to trans­late the state’s long­est tax mea­sure, due on the pub­lic bal­lot in Au­gust? The in­for­ma­tional pam­plet that ac­com­pa­nies the mea­sure is 48 pages long — and both doc­u­ments must be trans­lated into Yup’ik, Inu­piak, Siberian Yupik, Koyukon Athabas­can and Gwich’in Athabas­can — some of the lo­cal di­alects in the re­gion.

“The bal­lot mea­sure to re­peal the state’s oil tax cut might be the thorni­est is­sue Alaskans ever vote on, but imag­ine try­ing to un­der­stand terms like ‘gross rev­enue ex­clu­sion’ and pro­gres­siv­ity’ in Yup’ik and other Alaska Na­tive lan­guages,” says Alex DeMar­ban, an Alaska Dis­patch reporter fol­low­ing the progress, which in­cludes recorded ver­sions for those folks who only com­mu­ni­cate in an “oral tra­di­tion” he says.

The bal­lot in Yup’ik, for ex­am­ple, ends with “Unaqaa alerquun ciu­ni­u­ru­man­rilli?” or “Should this law be re­jected?”

The task is so com­pli­cated that the state Elec­tion Divi­sion of­fice is hav­ing a hard time re­tain­ing trans­la­tors who com­mand as much as $50 an hour.

“That bal­lot mea­sure was a pain in the neck,” said Os­car Alexie, one of six in­trepid trans­la­tors who stayed on to help cre­ate a Yup’ik sam­ple bal­lot us­able in dozens of vil­lages in Western Alaska.

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