For centuries, the Akulmiut people—a Yup’ik group—have been sustained by the annual movements of whitefish. It is a food that sustains and defines them. To this day, many Akulmiut view not only their actions in the world, but their interactions with each other, as having a direct and profound effect on these fish. Not only are fish viewed as responding to human action and intention in many contexts, but the lakes and rivers fish inhabit are likewise viewed as sentient beings, with the ability to respond both positively and negatively to those who travel there.
This bilingual book details the lives of the Akulmiut living in the lake country west of Bethel, Alaska, in the villages of Kasigluk, Nunapitchuk, and Atmautluak. Akulmiut Neqait is based in conversations recorded with the people of these villages as they talk about their uniquely Yup'ik view of the world and how it has weathered periods of immense change in southwest Alaska. While many predicted that globalization would sound the death knoll for many distinctive traditions, these conversations show that Indigenous people all over the planet have sought to appropriate the world in their own terms. For all their new connectedness, the continued relevance of traditional admonitions cannot be denied.
This book draws on little-known oral histories from the Yup’ik people of southwest Alaska to detail a period of bow-and-arrow warfare that took place in the region between 1300 and 1800. The result of more than thirty years of research, discussion, and field recordings involving more than one hundred Yup’ik men and women, Anguyiim Nalliini tells a story not just of war and violence, but also of its cultural context—the origins of place names, the growth of indigenous architectural practices, the personalities of prominent warriors and leaders, and the eventual establishment of peaceful coexistence.
The book is presented in bilingual format, with facing-page translations, and it will be hailed as a landmark work in the study of Alaska Native history and anthropology.
In October of 2010, six men who were serving on the board of the Calista Elders Council (CEC) gathered in Anchorage with CEC staff to spend three days speaking about the subsistence way of life. The men shared stories of their early years growing up on the land and harvesting through the seasons, and the dangers they encountered there. The gathering was striking for its regional breadth, as elders came from the Bering Sea coast as well as the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers. And while their accounts had some commonalities, they also served to demonstrate the wide range of different approaches to subsistence in different regions.
This book gathers the men’s stories for the current generation and those to come. Taken together, they become more than simply oral histories—rather, they testify to the importance of transmitting memories and culture and of preserving knowledge of vanishing ways of life.
Eskimo Essays introduces the reader to important aspects of the ideology and practice of the Yup’ik Eskimos of western Alaska, past and present. The essays point the way toward a fuller recognition of how Yup’ik Eskimos differ from the popular Western image of the Eskimo that was born largely without reference to Yup’ik reality. By describing the reality of Yup’ik life, Eskimo Essays extends our understanding of Esimos in general and Yup’ik Eskimos in particular.
Ann Fienup-Riordan argues that Western observers have simultaneously naturalized Eskimos as paragons of simplicity and virtue and Western imperialism. This process has often ignored Eskimo concepts of society, history, and personhood. An original assumption of similarity to Western society has profoundly affected the current Euro-American view of Eskimo history and action. Non-natives have taken an idealized Western individual, dressed that person up in polar garb, and then assumed they understood the garment’s maker. The result is a presentation of Eskimo society that often tells us more about the meaning we seek in our own. Moreover, modern Eskimos have risen to the challenge and to some extent become what we have made them.
Bridging the gap between informed scholarships and popular concepts, Fienup-Riordan provides a compelling and fresh presentation of Yup’ik life—cosmology, the missionary experience, attitudes toward conservation, Eskimo art, the legal system, warfare, and ceremonies.
Deb Vanasse University of Alaska Press, 2011 Library of Congress PZ7.V2755Lu 2011
A charming children’s book about the return of traditional dancing to one Yup’ik village, Lucy’s Dance tells the story of a little girl who is determined to help her grandfather demonstrate for the people of the town the beauty and complexity of old-style dancing. Threaded through the story are accounts of Yup’ik arts such as drumming, singing, and storytelling through dance, all brought to life with beautiful, full-color illustrations.
Deb Vanasse University of Alaska Press, 2011 Library of Congress MLCM 2018/46940 (P)
A charming children’s book about the return of traditional dancing to one Yup’ik village, Lugiim Yuraa (Lucy’s Dance), written in the Yup'ik language, tells the story of a little girl who is determined to help her grandfather demonstrate for the people of the town the beauty and complexity of old-style dancing. Threaded through the story are accounts of Yup’ik arts such as drumming, singing, and storytelling through dance, all brought to life with beautiful, full-color illustrations.
Mission of Change is an oral history describing various types of change—political, social, cultural, and religious—as seen through the eyes of Father Astruc and Paul Dixon, non-Natives who dedicated their lives to working with the Yup’ik people. Their stories are framed by the an analytic history of regional changes, together with current anthropological theory on the nature of cultural change and the formation of cultural identity. The book presents a subtle and emotionally moving account of the region and the roles of two men, both of whom view issues from a Catholic perspective yet are closely attuned to and involved with changes in the Yup’ik community.
Near the turn of the twentieth century, the territorial government of Alaska put its support behind a project led by Christian missionaries to convert Alaska Native peoples—and, along the way, bring them into “civilized” American citizenship. Establishing missions in a number of areas inhabited by Alaska Natives, the program was an explicit attempt to erase ten thousand years of Native culture and replace it with Christianity and an American frontier ethic.
Anthony Urvina, whose mother was an orphan raised at one of the missions established as part of this program, draws on details from her life in order to present the first full history of this missionary effort. Smoothly combining personal and regional history, he tells the story of his mother’s experience amid a fascinating account of Alaska Native life and of the men and women who came to Alaska to spread the word of Christ, confident in their belief and unable to see the power of the ancient traditions they aimed to supplant.
Lifeways in Southwest Alaska today remains inextricably bound to the seasonal cycles of sea and land. Community members continue to hunt, fish, and make products from the life found in the rivers and sea. Based on a wealth of oral histories collected over decades of research, this book explores the ancestral relationship between Yup’ik people and the natural world of Southwest Alaska. Nunakun-gguq Ciutengqertut studies the overlapping lives of the Yup’ik with native plants, animals, and birds, and traces how these relationships transform as more Yup’ik people relocate to urban areas and with the changing environment. The book will be hailed as a milestone work in the anthropological study of contemporary Alaska.
This bilingual collection shares new translations of old stories recorded over the last four decades though interviews with Yup’ik elders from throughout southwest Alaska. Some are true qulirat (traditional tales), while others are recent. Some are well known, like the adventures of the wily Raven, while others are rarely told. All are part of a great narrative tradition, shared and treasured by Yup’ik people into the present day.
This is the first region-wide collection of traditional Yup’ik tales and stories from Southwest Alaska. The elders and translators who contributed to this collection embrace the great irony of oral traditions: that the best way to keep these stories is to give them away. By retelling these stories, they hope to create a future in which the Yup’ik view of the world will be both recognized and valued.
Grounded in existing understandings of Yup’ik cosmology and worldview, this work is the first to look at how a Yup’ik community uses stories of place in social life. On the Bering coast of southwest Alaska, Cusack-McVeigh accompanied storytellers during their daily activities. Hearing many narratives repeatedly over a span of years, she came to understand how stories reflected interactions of people and places.
For the Yup’ik people, places are also social actors that react to human actions and emotions. Stories tell how people learn about each other through encounters on the land, and thereby places also learn about people. Places comment on human behavior through the land's responses to specific actions. Stories variously reveal ideas about human associations and relationships between humans and nonhuman beings. Pointing to a systematic correlation between places and narrative elements that has not been previously explored, this volume makes a unique contribution to the literature on place.
Winner of the Brian McConnell Book Award from the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research.
People are often able to identify change agents. They can estimate possible economic and social transitions, and they are often in an economic or social position to make calculated—sometimes risky—choices. Exploring this dynamic, A Tale of Three Villages is an investigation of culture change among the Yup’ik Eskimo people of the southwestern Alaskan coast from just prior to the time of Russian and Euro-North American contact to the mid-twentieth century.
Liam Frink focuses on three indigenous-colonial events along the southwestern Alaskan coast: the late precolonial end of warfare and raiding, the commodification of subsistence that followed, and, finally, the engagement with institutional religion. Frink’s innovative interdisciplinary methodology respectfully and creatively investigates the spatial and material past, using archaeological, ethnoecological, and archival sources.
The author’s narrative journey tracks the histories of three villages ancestrally linked to Chevak, a contemporary Alaskan Native community: Qavinaq, a prehistoric village at the precipice of colonial interactions and devastated by regional warfare; Kashunak, where people lived during the infancy and growth of the commercial market and colonial religion; and Old Chevak, a briefly occupied “stepping-stone” village inhabited just prior to modern Chevak. The archaeological spatial data from the sites are blended with ethnohistoric documents, local oral histories, eyewitness accounts of people who lived at two of the villages, and Frink’s nearly two decades of participant-observation in the region.
Frink provides a model for work that examines interfaces among indigenous women and men, old and young, demonstrating that it is as important as understanding their interactions with colonizers. He demonstrates that in order to understand colonial history, we must actively incorporate indigenous people as actors, not merely as reactors.
In this book, close to one hundred men and women from all over southwest Alaska share knowledge of their homeland and the plants that grow there. They speak eloquently about time spent gathering and storing plants and plant material during snow-free months, including gathering greens during spring, picking berries each summer, harvesting tubers from the caches of tundra voles, and gathering a variety of medicinal plants. The book is intended as a guide to the identification and use of edible and medicinal plants in southwest Alaska, but also as an enduring record of what Yup’ik men and women know and value about plants and the roles plants continue to play in Yup’ik lives.
The Siberian Yupik people have endured centuries of change and repression, starting with the Russian Cossacks in 1648 and extending into recent years. The twentieth century brought especially formidable challenges, including forced relocation by Russian authorities and a Cold War “ice curtain” that cut off the Yupik people on the mainland region of Chukotka from those on St. Lawrence Island. Yet throughout all this, the Yupik have managed to maintain their culture and identity. Igor Krupnik and Michael Chlenov spent more than thirty years studying this resilience through original fieldwork. In Yupik Transitions, they present a compelling portrait of a tenacious people and place in transition—an essential portrait as the fast pace of the newest century threatens to erase their way of life forever.