In the 18th century, after colonists made contact with the Iñupiaq people, children were sent to English-language schools and all peoples were forbidden to use the Iñupiaq language (as well as other native languages). Recently, it has been estimated there are 3,000 Iñupiaq speakers left, with most of those over the age of 40 (Source).
However, efforts to revitalize the Iñupiaq language are underway, led by dedicated community members, educators, and linguists who recognize its importance in preserving Iñupiaq identity and culture. In schools and community centers across the North Slope, efforts are being made to teach Iñupiaq to the younger generation, ensuring that it continues to thrive in the years to come.
Ultimately, the preservation of the Iñupiaq language is about more than just words; it is about preserving a way of life, a connection to the land, and a sense of identity that has sustained the Iñupiaq people for millennia.