Indigenous writer Lily Tuzroyluke debuts her novel ‘Sivulliq Ancestor’

Indigenous writer Lily Tuzroyluke debuts her novel ‘Sivulliq Ancestor’
Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 9:40 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - “Sivulliq Ancestor” is an Inupiaq story that is told from 1890′s Arctic Alaska after smallpox devastated Indigenous communities.

“But at the core of the story is courage and sacrifice, traditional knowledge of the land — ancient knowledge — and essentially a mother’s love for her children,” says author Lily Tuzroyluke.

It is a love she can relate to. As a mom herself, Tuzroyluke’s son Luke was diagnosed with autism when he was five years old.

She had to make the hard decision to move to Anchorage, but wondered; what if she started writing?

Sivulliq Ancestor is her first novel, but it’s not her first introduction to writing. In eighth grade, Tuzroyluke wrote a poem about an elderly family member who was diagnosed with cancer. She said her teacher loved it so much, she encouraged her to submit it to a citywide creative writing contest.

Tuzroyluke said that sparked her love for writing.

Over the years, she created a career for herself working in tribal governments across the state.

“I had this tremendous opportunity to listen to our elders, to whaling captains, to hunters and whalers and whaling crews, and from there, it transitioned from being a Tlingit story to being an Inupiaq story,” she explained.

Tuzroyluke said the elders’ response to the Inupiaq story she wrote has been humbling and she feels her novel is just one of the ways she hopes to continue reclaiming her elders’ stories.

“A lot of our stories are pushed as old wives tales, myths and legends, and in this colonial system, it’s really reclaiming the narrative of Indigenous peoples,” she said.

Great Reads from Great Places is an annual list that is distributed by the Library of Congress; each state selects a book for adults and kids. Sivulliq Ancestor was selected to represent Alaska for 2023.