Alaska:The Yup’ik Eskimos

Alaska:The Yup’ik Eskimos documents the lives of people who have occupied the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region of western Alaska for about three thousand years.  The special relationship Yup’iks have with their environment is reflected in their subsistence lifestyle and their spiritual and cultural values.

For hundreds of years, the arctic environment has challenged Eskimos to develop strong personal resources in order to survive.  Today, instead of perceiving the frozen tundra as a harsh enemy, Yup’iks see the land, rivers and sea as having bountiful resources which fulfill their survival needs.  Respect for the land and its inhabitants is fundamental and pervades every aspect of Yup’ik life .  It is demonstrated daily by sharing food, clothing and gifts among family and friends; and by bestowing honor upon the game through special ceremonies related to hunting, fishing, gathering and preparing food.

Learn about the lifestyle of the Yup’iks by observing activities of each season: a summer fish camp, a spring seal hunt and a winter dance gathering.  Find out about what is important to Yup’iks by hearing individuals talk about the importance of food, family, sharing and showing respect for the land and animals.

Discover how Yup’ik teenagers sometimes feel as if they are caught between two different worlds: the world of their ancestors and elders, where subsistence was the only way of life and survival skills were very important; and the modern world, where they go to “punk” dances, work on classroom computers, play basketball and ride snowmobiles.  And finally, listen to students and elders, as they explain how they try to find a balance between these two ways of life.

Produced by
Gail K. Evenari & Lawrence M. Lansburgh