, 2023-01-13 10:58:57,
A translation service company that contracted with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to offer disaster relief information to Alaska Natives will reimburse the federal agency for work that has been deemed indecipherable.
Accent on Languages was supposed to translate information for speakers of two Alaska Native languages: Yugtun, or Central Yup’ik, and Iñupiaq. Those documents could have helped Indigenous language speakers impacted by Typhoon Merbok apply for disaster relief.
But the company’s Yup’ik translations turned out to be a mish-mash of phrases lifted from an 80-year-old book of Russian language and folklore. The Iñupiaq translations were written in the Inuktitut alphabet, an Indigenous language spoken in Northeastern Canada. Fluent speakers there said that even in that alphabet, the work doesn’t make sense.
The translation company has committed to reimbursing FEMA for the work. But that’s not enough for former Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney.
“Fraud is fraud, in my opinion,” Sweeney said. “And you can’t put a price on the impact [of] denying services to vulnerable communities because of misinformation. When you look at the cost of living in rural Alaska it’s exorbitant and it’s challenging. There’s no dollar amount that can be refunded to the…
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