Uvvatuq Naluallangniaqtugut (I Humbly Hope We Run Into Game): An Iñupiaq Research Process


  • Sean Asiqłuq Topkok University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Hannah Paniyavluk Loon Iñupiaq Elder


Uvvatuq naluallangniaqtugut (I humbly hope we run into game) is a phrase an Iñupiaq person would say before going out hunting in the Selawik dialect. We believe all things have a spirit, including animals. If a hunter announces they are going out hunting, the animal spirits will hear that and the hunter may have bad luck. Another phrase said in English is “I am going out for a ride.” The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation. The name of the project is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM): Teaching in Rural Areas using Cultural Knowledge Systems (TRACKS). The UAF team, known as the UAF Development Team, is working with the Northwest Arctic Borough School District to develop STEM lessons utilizing Iñupiaq knowledge systems and university research for middle school-age students in three villages. The UAF participating programs humbly reached out to local community members to establish a TRACKS Team. However, the UAF participating programs wanted the TRACKS Team to identify what is important to teach their children. The community were the ones to identify the research topic, utilizing an analogy Uvvatuq naluallangniaqtugut (I humbly hope we run into game) for an Iñupiaq research process.

Author Biography

Sean Asiqłuq Topkok, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Uvaŋa atiġa Asiqłuq. My Iñupiaq name is Asiqłuq, which means "Bad Boy". I am named after one of my great-uncles Johnny Kakaruk, who was an author and dance group leader. My white fox name is Sean Topkok. I am Iñupiaq, Sámi, Kven, Irish, and Norwegian. My parents are the late Aileen and Clifford Topkok from Teller, Alaska. My father was Iñupiaq, Sámi, Kven; and his first language was Iñupiaq. My mother was born and raised in Teller, learning to speak a little Iñupiaq. My paternal grandparents were Fred and Gussie Topkok; and my maternal grandparents were Edgar and Mary Tweet. My Tlingit name is Deikeejaakhw. I speak English, Norwegian, Iñupiaq, and Sámi at home with my family.

I am the founder and leader of the Pavva Iñupiaq Dancers, and have been the dance group leader since it began in 1999. I began dancing with other Alaska Native groups in 1987. I have been with Alaska Native Knowledge Network since April 1997. I also teach at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a PhD in Indigenous Studies.

My wife, three sons, and grandson are also actively involved with the Pavva Iñupiaq Dancers. The whole group is like family to me. Being involved with this group has helped me share what I know about our culture heritage,and it has helped me learn more our our culture. We continue to live our Iñupiaq values through our dance group, passing them to our children.