Explorers like Cook passed their knowledge on through written journals and maps , shared with the rest of the world . People learned this geography , and called the land by these written names .
As traders and settlers came to Alaska , they adapted some Native place names , using pronunciations that were easier in Russian or English . They named other landmarks and cities after politicians , resources , or geographic characteristics .
Place names that had been passed down for thousands of years were used less and less . Wisdom of the land — the gift of generations of ancestors — began to disappear .
Qikulek – Clay
Situated just north of Becharof Lake and accessed from the
north side of Upper Nanvarnaq Lagoon on the Egegik River,
are the Whitefish Creek Lakes, once known by the Yup’ik word
Qikulek. Although its modern name suggests fishing as a primary
importance, the area holds greater significance to those who
hunted large, bearded seals in skin qayaqs (kayak) in Bristol Bay.
Shareholder Nick Abalama Sr. remembers stories of hunters
traveling up the river from Egegik in qayaqs. Walking waist deep
into the water and stomping on the bottom would yield handfuls
of white clay. This clay would then be mixed with seal oil, and the
mixture would be used to cover the qayaq used in seal hunting.
The seal oil acted as water repellant in the deep waters of Bristol
Bay, and the white color of the clay made the qayaq an ice-like
white, serving as camouflage when approaching the maklaks
(bearded seal). For the hunters, this collection of small lakes
became known as Qikulek, “clay.”
18 | Igya’iq (Egegik), Alaska.