Our sixth grade students have translated this traditional Yup’ik story into English. They wrote it as part of a BreadNet electronic exchange with students from the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. Our sixth graders decided that an older, "word-by-word" translation of the story was inadequate for the project, so they decided to write a new, more fluid version for their Navajo friends.


Listen to our students read their own translation of Long Nails. (.wav)




See the word-by-word translation as it was before our students changed it. (.pdf)


Cetugpak/Long Nails



View an older, illustrated, Yup'ik-only version of this story. (.pdf)


Cetugpak (pages missing)



What is next?

      Presently, the sixth grade Yup'ik class is transcribing (.avi) a local variation from the tape-recorded voice of a village elder. Some residents believe this local variationhas never before existed in print.

      Local variations tend to be unique to particular groups of villages and are usually not familiar to people from outside those villages. Long Nails is not a local variation, as it is commonly known in most villages.

      Once transcribed, the Yup'ik class will use the story to produce a short Yup'ik play. Students have expressed interest in working toward an English translation of the story also, if there is time.

Translated from Yup’ik by the 6th Grade Students of Lewis Angapak Memorial School
BLSE Breadnet Exchange with Navajo Nation class partners in New Mexico
illustration from a much older Yup'ik version of Long Nails
Teachers: David Miller and Sophie Enoch (Alaska); J.J.Johnson (New Mexico)

Winter 2006

Long Nails

           Once there lived a grandmother and her grandson. The grandmother warned her grandson not to go among the tall grass across the river. One morning the grandchild went berry picking at the other side of the river, despite his grandmother's warnings. When he was picking berries he became very curious of what was in the tall grass. While he was picking, he inched himself toward the grass. When he got closer, he saw a trail that went into the grass. After thinking about it, he decided he would follow the trail and come back right away. So he started to follow the trail.

           As he went on, the grass became taller. Then a stream of smoke appeared ahead of him flowing straight up. When he reached it there was a small house. He climbed it, looking around cautiously and carefully. At the top he peeked though the window and saw an old woman sitting and playing with her nails. Her nails were very long.

           Even though he didn’t make any noise, the old woman shouted at him to come down and come in. The grandchild climbed down and went in. When he came in she served him boiled fish. While he was eating the old woman kept playing with her fingernails. Then a small boy came in quickly and threw a tantrum about wanting to eat. The old woman screamed at him, telling him he would not eat, but the boy ran out quickly to the porch saying he was going to eat. The old woman ran after him, and the boy started screaming.

           All of a sudden, the noise subsided, and the old woman came in and sat down. The grandchild became frightened, so he made an excuse to go pee. At this, the old woman said to him, "Why don't you pee in my palm." The grand child replied," Uh, I would, but I don't know how to pee in the palm." The old woman said again, " Why don't you pee in my mukluk." The grandchild replied, "I would do that, but I don't know how to pee into a mukluk." The old woman said to him again," Why don't you pee into my fire place?" The grandchild replied, "Uh, I would do that too, but I don't know how to pee into the fire place."

           The old woman, losing her patience, told him to go pee in front of the house, but to come back in right away. When the grandchild went outside, he found a little boy lying dead in an oval cauldron. This frightened him, and right away he tightened his belt, and after gathering his berries, ran home. As he was running, he started to hear stomping sounds from behind, like this: "tum, tum, tum." He briefly turned back and saw the old woman galloping like a dog after him. She’d extended her nails toward the grandchild, nearly reaching him.

            When the grandchild arrived at the river, he told the ptarmigan on the other side of the river that the old woman was chasing him. The ptarmigan stretched his legs across and told the grandchild to come across. When he reached the other side of the river he told the ptarmigan to let the old woman come across, but he told the ptarmigan to pull back his legs when the old woman got to the middle of the river.

            When she got to the river she yelled and howled, demanding help to cross. The ptarmigan stretched out his legs and let her cross. When the old woman reached the middle of the river the ptarmigan pulled back his legs and the old woman sank and drowned. Mice started surfacing in the water where she went under. They turned out to be the old woman's lice.

           From then on, the grandchild followed his grandmother's directions.



Courtney Cazden, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Bring mouse to image for a remark from Courtney Cazden.