Ticasuk Brown: Alaska’s Inupiaq Chalkboard Champion

BrownThere are many examples of talented educators who have advanced the cause of multicultural understanding and racial equality. This is certainly the case with Emily Ticasuk Brown, an Alaska Native who was also an elementary school teacher, poet, and writer.

Emily Ticasuk Brown was born in 1904 in Unlakleet, Alaska. Her Inupiaq name, Ticasuk, translated into English means “where the four winds gather their treasures from all parts of the world…the greatest of which is knowledge.” Ticasuk came into the world an Alaska Native with blended heritage. Her grandfather, Sergei Ivanoff, was Russian, and her grandmother, Chikuk, was Yupik Native. Ticasuk’s parents were Stephen Ivanoff and Malquay.

As a young girl, Ticasuk attended elementary school in Shaktoolik, Alaska, a village co-founded by her father. After her graduation from high school, she earned her teaching credential in Oregon, and then she returned to Alaska where she accepted her first teaching position at an elementary school in Kotzebue. The course of her life quickly changed, however, after she witnessed the numerous health hazards in her village. To address this concern, she moved to Washington to study nursing. There she met her husband and married. Later Ticasuk and her husband returned to Alaska, where she taught for two years, until his early death. She returned to college in 1959, earning two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Alaska, and then her master’s degree in 1974. Her master’s thesis, Grandfather of Unalakleet, was republished as The Roots of Ticasuk: An Eskimo Woman’s Family Story in 1981.

As an Inpiaq educator and supporter of bi-lingual education, Ticasuk created a curriculum based on her native tongue. She also worked extensively on the creation of an encyclopedia of the Inupiaq language. She is widely recognized by Alaska Native people as a writer of articles that further understanding about Eskimo cultures and education. In addition, this talented teacher organized the Alaska Heritage Writers Association.

For her efforts, Ticasuk was given a Presidential Commission by President Richard Nixon, and she was in line to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska. Unfortunately, in 1982 Ticasuk passed away before the honor could be conferred. She was 78 years old. In 2009, this talented educator and writer was inducted into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame.

Ticasuk Brown: a true chalkboard champion.