A southern Alaskan village was left with 28 residents after the rest ventured to Hawke's Bay to revitalise their endangered language.

Hosted by Haumoana School, 41 residents of Igiugig spent the weekend engaging in Maori culture and learning how Te Reo had been retained to preserve their own culture.

Only four village elders in Igiugig speak the native language of Yup'ik. The village's specific Lake Iliamna dialect is spoken by fewer than 24 people worldwide, all of whom are over the age of 65.

However, New Zealand is the village's first step on a three-year journey to revitalise their language, with the help of a language preservation and maintenance grant.


Project director AlexAnna Salmon said it had been encouraging to see how Maori culture had been preserved and they were hoping to base their language revitalisation on these models.

"It's been an inspiring experience seeing how New Zealanders themselves work with the Government to preserve it [Te Reo] ... it looks like a partnership, a community-driven effort."

Igiugig School head teacher Tate Gooden said the trip had shown him their education and cultural process were decades behind New Zealand's.

He said they were inspired to do at home what Maori had done in New Zealand to keep their culture alive.

Among the visiting group were five "language apprentices" who would be leading the revitalisation when they returned to Alaska as the village elders were too old to teach the younger generation.

With members of the Haumoana community, the Alaskans had enjoyed a powhiri and hangi at Matahiwi Marae, visited Otatara Pa and met native animals at the National Aquarium of New Zealand.

Haumoana School principal Jane Gallen said the trip was also helping Haumoana kids to broaden their horizons.

Members of the Igiugig community had arrived in New Zealand on Boxing Day, and had also visited a school in Kaitaia.