This story is about ancestors whom I believe everyone has around them all the time, but don't always notice.
Now to explain background. My family is the average American family, European background with some Native American. My Granddad used to talk about his parents a lot, because they were characters and a lot of fun even though they worked hard. His dad worked in a gold mining company, of all things, and his mother was a very strong minded Inuit woman.
To this day we have more Alaskan Native traditions in our household than European because his momma said it had to be that way. She was a neat woman whom I'd never met, only heard about. So I never thought it strange that a lot of times, while drifting off to sleep, I could hear singing, not in English. It was always a native American language that I didn't know, and couldn't remember by the morning.
As I grew up and lived life, I would still hear and sometimes see, snatches of conversation, people sitting in a small circle a lot, and women singing. Not loud, quietly like you do when your working. Especially when things were difficult; driving to work on a moped in the snow, when it got unbearable and I couldn't feel my hands and felt nauseated, they would start singing loud and clear, and I felt circulation coming back. Working two shifts back-to-back for three days, out trotted the singing Inuits, and once again, not a problem, didn't feel like sitting down anyways. It became a thing.
The family would get in conversations about "when do you hear the ancestors singing?" And sure enough, a number of us had stories. So a lot of us made trips to Alaska to find some of our family heritage. I've never had the money to go myself, so I contented myself with trying to journal the words to the Yu'pik songs I've heard. I never got anywhere because singing is always phrased differently than speaking, and Yu'pik has a number of sounds that have no equivalent in our alphabet. So I didn't know how to write a lot of it down, or even if I heard it right, or was it all just my imagination.
It was just this past week I was thinking, "If you want to speak to me, I wish you'd explain what your saying." I was putting things away from a music event that I was vending at. And they had a lot of wannabe Cherokees there selling "authentic" Cherokee stuff. Well, as we helped each other set up and break down, we all got together for a blessing to see us on our way. The lady organizer came and told me to step out of it because I wasn't part of their group. I had thought, "Right, I'm not a red-headed wannabe Cherokee. I know who my tough Inuit ancestor is so that's fine."
So I was thinking of this, and how yeah, I don't even understand all this singing I've heard all my life and I heard a woman singing softly, like to her kids. I scrambled for my journal to write it down before I forgot it, and I forgot it! It comes out of the blue! I was just kicking myself for losing it, and heard it again. I tried to say it and heard her correct me! "Not anock, say it ahhnuk." I said ahnook. She said "Ahhnuk, Ahhnuk, Ahhnuk" singsong like. I googled it to make sure. It means Mother in Yu'pik. Then she sang about an umiak for mother over and over until I got it right. Then she sang "Alt a" see they have a sound like you make an "L" but say nothing, "altah nag" it sounded like Schinuk. Which I looked up, and it means pay attention now, to Schinuk. She told me to pay attention to Schinuk which was a trade language in her time. Then she repeated and we said together "ahhduk" which means Father.
I'm crying now thinking how thoughtful my Great-Grandmother is to spend this time when she could be in the light, trying to help me understand her language. And helping all of us so much. She still speaks a lot but but it's hard to verify a lot of it because Google quits after a half hour of Yu'pik, it assumes pranking or something.
I'd so appreciate comments, and if you know of how to get a hold of a website for Inuit languages, zing it on over.