After a typhoon tore up Alaska's western coast last fall, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency called for residents—mostly Alaska Native peoples—to file paperwork in order to receive support for property damage repair and other aid. How nice that FEMA thought to provide the instructions for the forms in Alaska Native languages like Yup'ik or Inupiaq but turns out, the phrases—when translated back to English—included the likes of: "Tomorrow he will go hunting very early, and will (bring) nothing" and "Your husband is a polar bear, skinny."
From the Associated Press:
FEMA fired the California company hired to translate the documents once the errors became known, but the incident was an ugly reminder for Alaska Natives of the suppression of their culture and languages from decades past.
FEMA immediately took responsibility for the translation errors and corrected them, and the agency is working to make sure it doesn't happen again, spokesperson Jaclyn Rothenberg said. No one was denied aid because of the errors[…]
For Tara Sweeney, an Inupiaq who served as an assistant secretary of Indian Affairs in the U.S. Interior Department during the Trump administration, this was another painful reminder of steps taken to prevent Alaska Native children from speaking Indigenous languages[…]
Sweeney called for a congressional oversight hearing to uncover how long and widespread the practice has been used throughout government.
"These government contracting translators have certainly taken advantage of the system, and they have had a profound impact, in my opinion, on vulnerable communities," said Sweeney, whose great-grandfather, Roy Ahmaogak, invented the Inupiaq alphabet more than a half-century ago.