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<i>Two Old Women</i>: An Example of Gwich'in Stewardship

  • Alexandra Anne Ellis University of Alaska Anchorage


This project analyzes Two Old Women by Velma Wallis, which provides insight into how an Indigenous writer has engaged in cultural reclamation in Alaska. Based on a traditional Gwich’in story, the novel is a cautionary tale about respect for Elders and strength in community. Through theories of survivance and stewardship, I examine how Wallis’s writing preserves cultural literacies, promotes cultural survival, resists colonial pressures to fully assimilate, and mediates dominant literacies. In particular, I examine how Wallis uses stories of subsistence and survival; place-specific language about animals, landscapes, and place-based activities in interior Alaska; and translanguaging between English and Gwich’in. Together, Wallis’s use of story, place-based language, and translanguaging demonstrates potential tactics of stewardship as a means of preserving and promoting Gwich’in culture. Overall, Wallis’ efforts of cultural revitalization align with movements toward decolonization and survivance.

Author Biography

Alexandra Anne Ellis, University of Alaska Anchorage

Alexandra Ellis graduated from the University of Alaska – Anchorage in May of 2019 with an Honors B.A. in English and a minor in Psychology. She currently works full time as a technical writer while attending Vermont Law School as a graduate student. She is in her second semester of the Masters of Arts in Restorative Justice program and hopes to go on to start her Juris Doctorate in the fall.

How to Cite
Ellis, A. A. (2020). <i>Two Old Women</i&gt;: An Example of Gwich’in Stewardship. Young Scholars in Writing, 17, 32-47. Retrieved from