The Yupik or, in the Central Alaskan language, Yup'ik, are aboriginal people who live along the coast of western Alaska, especially on the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta and along the Kuskokwim River (Central Alaskan Yupik), in southern Alaska (the Alutiiq) and in the Russian Far East and St. Lawrence Island in western Alaska (the Siberian Yupik). They are Eskimo and are related to the Inuit.
The Central Alaska Yup'ik are by far the most numerous group of Yupik. The Central Alaska Yup'ik who live on Nunivak Island are called Cup'ig. Those who live in the village of Chevak are called "Cup'ik".
Traditionally, families spend the spring and summer at fish camp, then joined with others at village sites for the winter.
The men's communal house, the qasqig, was the community center for ceremonies and festivals which included singing, dancing, and storytelling. The qasqig was used mainly in the winter months, because people would travel in family groups following food sources throughout the spring, summer, and fall months. Aside from ceremonies and festivals, it was also where the men taught the young boys survival and hunting skills, as well as other life lessons. The young boys were also taught how to make tools and qayaqs during the winter months in the qasqig.
The women's house, the ena, was traditionally right next door, and in some areas they were connected by a tunnel. Women taught the young girls how to sew, cook, and weave. Boys would live with their mothers until they were about five years old, then they would live in the qasqig. Each winter, from anywhere between three to six weeks, the young boys and young girls would switch, with the men teaching the girls survival and hunting skills and toolmaking and the women teaching the boys how to sew and cook.
The Yupik language (related to Inuktitut) is still very widely spoken, with more than 75% of the Yupik/Yup'ik population fluent in the language. Many families still harvest the traditional subsistence resources, especially salmon and seal.
Through a confusion among Russian explorers in the 1800s, the Yupik people bordering the territory of the unrelated Aleuts were erroneously called Aleuts, or Alutiiq, in Yupik. This term has remained in use to the present day, along with another term, Sugpiaq , which both refer to the Yupik of Southcentral Alaska and Kodiak.
Last updated: 10-21-2005 00:23:17