Pekka Sammallahti: Alaska Saami texts and commentary

Pekka Sammallahti from the University of Oulu in Finland transcribed and translated the interviews taped in 1980 with the last native speakers of of North Saami in Alaska. These tapes offered a unique window into the life of those individuals involved in the reindeer importing, raising, and herding lifestyle during the early 20th century.

The interviews are an important documentation of Alaska history, but also historical linguistics. Sammallahti, a Saama linguist, noticed while working with the language that it showed a "chronology of certain linguistic innovation that characterized the present Saami variety in the northernmost Norway, the original homeland of the Bahr and Sara families." Apparently, according to Sammallahti, "the language in the Bahr and Sara interviews represents an Alaskan "deep freeze" intermediate stage at the end of the 19th century which has not been documented before and allows for the reconstruction of the whole development and its chronology." Sammallahti will include the linguistic study when the interviews are published.

Interviews, translations, vocabularies compiled and a description of the phonological system of the language in the interviews will be included with the publication. Personal information with photos are also part of the documentation.

Work in progress is available on the Alaska Native Language Archive website.