RECOGNITION OF ALASKA QUARTERLY REVIEW; Congressional Record Vol. 145, No. 126
(Senate - September 24, 1999)

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[Pages S11448-S11449]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


 Mr. MURKOWSKI. Mr. President, two years ago I rose to 
highlight a publication of the University of Alaska, Anchorage when it 
was honored as ``one of the nation's best literary magazines.'' Today, 
I rise to again call the Senate's attention to the continuing praise 
for the Alaska Quarterly Review. Specifically, I rise to praise its 
latest issue, Alaska Native Writers, Storytellers & Orators, The 
Expanded Edition.
  The literary journal, now in its 18th year, for its summer-fall issue 
has published a 400-page volume including more than 80 original works, 
many by Alaska Natives. The volume could win my praise simply for 
taking the step of publishing 15 classic Native stories in both English 
and in traditional Alaska Native languages. You see, in June 1991, I 
introduced the Alaska Native Languages Preservation Act (S. 1595). The 
bill, which became law in 1992 and was implemented in 1994, was 
designed to provide grants to Alaska Native groups and media for 
language preservation projects, including research, preservation and 
instruction to teach Alaska's traditional languages to younger Natives.
  There are 20 original Native languages spoken in Alaska--more than 
155 nationwide--but only two of them, Siberian Yup'ik and Central 
Yup'ik are healthy.'' That means they continue to be spoken by Native 
children. Thus 18 of the Alaska Native languages face extinction by 
2055, unless more is done to preserve them. For example, only a single 
speaker of Eyak, a language spoken only in the Copper River Delta in 
Alaska, is still alive to pass the unique sounds of the language on to 
new speakers.
  Thus the new effort by the review's Executive Editor and Founding 
Editor Ronald Spatz of Anchorage would win my praise simply because it 
has published stories in Eyak, Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshian, Ugangan, 
Alutiiq, Central Yup'ik, St. Lawrence Island Yup'ik, Inupiaq and 
Dena'ina. But the issue has done much more for classic and modern 
literature and for the preservation of Alaska's Native history and 
  Through its stories, short stories, oral histories, folk tales and 
poems, the literary magazine has taken a giant step to convey Alaska's 
rich and diverse Native cultures. It pays tribute to the Native 
language speakers and tradition bearers that keep their cultures alive 
through their stories and through their words. And over the years 
Alaskans have learned that one of the best ways to protect the social 
fabric of Native Alaskans is to protect their culture, thus maintaining 
Native residents' pride in their history and their heritage.
  Kirkus Reviews, in its Aug. 1, 1999 review of the journal called it, 
``quite a tidy little omnibus of poems, oral histories, folk tales and 
stories by Native Alaskans. . . . Sociologists and folklorists will be 
particularly grateful for the bibliography and source notations, and 
those unfamiliar with Alaskan culture, will find in the very extensive 
commentaries a useful orientation to what remains a largely unknown 
world. . . . offering as they do a glimpse into the history of our Last 
  This is certainly not the first time that the review has won literary 
praise. Since its inception at the Anchorage campus of the University 
of Alaska in 1982, the Alaska Quarterly Review (AQR) has served as an 
instrument to give voice to Alaska writers and poets, while also 
publishing the best of material from non-Alaskan authors. While the AQR 
is firmly rooted in Alaska, it maintains a national perspective--
bridging the distance between the literary centers and Alaska, while 
also sharing an Alaskan perspective. This balanced presentation of 
views has earned AQR local, regional and national/international 
recognition over the years.
  In June 1997 the Washington Post book review section, Book World, 
called it ``one of the nation's best literary magazines.'' Bill Katz in 
the Library Journal said ``AQR is highly recommended and deserves 
applause.'' While Patrick Parks in the Literary Magazine Review said, 
``It is an impressive publication, comprising as diverse and rewarding 
an aggregation of work as a reader is likely to find in any literary 
  The review has won a host of national awards including a 1999 Beacon 
Best award, a 1997 O. Henry Award, a 1996 award from Scribner for Best

[[Page S11449]]

American Poetry, and the 1995 Andres Berger Award from Northwest 
Writers Inc., plus literally a dozen other awards and mentions.
  I rise today to honor the publication, not just because of its many 
awards, but because many Alaskans still do not understand or appreciate 
the breadth and scope of the publication and how important it has 
become as a gateway for Alaskan authors to win recognition from a wider 
literary audience.
  I want to thank the University of Alaska Board of Regents and the 
leadership of the University of Alaska Anchorage for supporting the 
publication. Alaska's university system continues to face difficult 
economic times because of falling Alaska State revenues. It has taken a 
tremendous commitment to academic excellence to continue the funding 
necessary to permit the review to be a quality publication and artistic 
success. The University deserves great credit for its efforts at 
promoting the publication in these difficult financial times. It is 
because of the need for more revenues for the University to permit it 
to reach the highest level of greatness that I continue to press for 
the University to finally gain its full land-grant entitlement that it 
should have received at its founding. The University of Alaska Land 
Grant Bill, still pending full Senate consideration, would greatly help 
the University gain the economic means to support such important 
endeavors. But more on that at another time.
  I also want to thank and again publicly recognize the work of Mr. 
Spatz. A recent recipient of the 1999 Edith R. Bullock Award for 
Excellence--the most prestigious award bestowed by the University of 
Alaska Foundation, Mr. Spatz is a professor and chair of the University 
of Alaska Anchorage's Department of Creative Writing and Literary Arts 
and has been involved with the UAA's honors program. A film maker and 
writer, besides editor, Mr. Spatz wrote a series of illuminating notes 
in the current volume. He was joined in shaping it by Contributing 
Editors Jeane Breinig, assistant professor of English at the University 
of Alaska Anchorage, and by Patricia Partnow, vice president of 
Education at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. A final thank you must 
be provided to the National Endowment for the Arts, which provided a 
Heritage and Preservation Grant that helped pay the costs of 
publication of the expanded edition.
  Mr. President, Alaska, in fact all of America, is far richer 
artistically because of the review's presence. It truly is a window for 
Americans to view society in Alaska at the close of the 20th Century, 
and a worthy stage for the serious works of all writers as we enter the 
21th Century. That is particularly the case with this edition. I 
commend it and its contributors for its many achievements, and I know 
all members of the U.S. Senate join me in wishing it continued