Throughout Alaska , there is a movement to document Native place names — to preserve our rich history and heritage .
In some cases , Native place names are officially reclaimed and used .
The highest mountain in North America was known as Mount McKinley for more than a century . Its place name was reclaimed in 2015 . Future generations will know it on maps and in common reference by its Koyukon Athabaskan name : Denali , the Great One .
The people of Utqiagvik , the northernmost city in the United States , reclaimed the name of their community in 2016 . For more than a century , it had been known as Barrow . Now Alaskans know Utqiagvik for its original Iñupiaq name , which references a place for gathering roots . Imagine how important this place name was for generations of Iñupiat living in the harsh conditions north of the Arctic Circle .
Curyung – Where the Water Turns Murky
Where the Nushagak and Wood rivers
meet in southwestern Alaska, there is
a place called Curyung. In Yugtun, the
language of the Yup’ik people, Curyung
means “murky water” or is described
as the “the place where the water turns
murky.” There, the glacial silty sediments
from upriver mix together to create murky
water, which then spills into Bristol Bay.
Eventually, the nearby U.S. post office was
renamed after a 19th century Senator,
and the local town began to be referenced
by the same name. That is how the place
called Curyung came to be widely known
This information was shared by Courtenay Carty, Tribal
Administrator for Curyung Tribal Council.
22 | Aerial view near Curyung (Dillingham), Alaska. Photo: Anchorage Daily News