Every Yup'ik is responsible to all other Yup'iks
for survival of our cultural spirit, and the
values and traditions through which it
survives. Through our extended family, we
retain, teach, and live our Yup'ik way.
General information
• There are more Yup’ik people than any other Alaskan Native people.
• About 20,000 live in Alaska today.
• Most Yup'ik people live in small villages along the Bering Sea and
the lower Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers.
• Through a confusion among Russian explorers in the 1800s, the
Yup’ik people bordering the territory of the unrelated Aleuts were
erroneously called Aleuts, or Alutiiq, in Yup’ik.
• The Yup'ik languages are in the family of Eskimo-Aleut languages.
The Aleut and Eskimo languages diverged about 2000 B.C., and the
Yup’ik languages diverged from each other and from Inuktitut about
1000 A.D.
• The Yup’ik people speak five distinct languages, depending on their
location. The languages differ enough from one another that
speakers of different ones cannot understand each other, although
they may understand the general idea of a conversation of speakers
of another of the languages.
• The most common language is called Central Yup’ik.
• The five Yup’ik are still very widely spoken, with more than 75% of
the Yup'ik population fluent in the language.
• About 1/3 of the Yup'ik children learn Central Yup'ik as their first
• Nowadays, local radio stations broadcast in the language.
• The men's communal house, the qasqig, was the community center
for ceremonies and festivals which included singing, dancing, and
• 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 Yup'ik languages were not written until the arrival of Europeans
around the beginning of the 19th century. The earliest efforts at
writing Yup'ik were those of missionaries who, with their Yup'ikspeaking assistants, translated the Bible and other religious texts
into Yup'ik.
• After the United States purchased Alaska, Yup'ik children were
taught to write English with Latin letters in the public schools. Some
were also taught the Yup'ik script developed by Rev. Hinz.
• In the 1960s, the University of Alaska assembled a group of scholars
and native Yup'ik speakers who developed a script to replace the
Hinz writing system. One of the goals of this script was that it could
be input from an English keyboard, without diacriticals or extra
Yup’ik Masks
For many generations the
Yup’ik people of Alaska
have created beautifully
expressive masks for their
traditional dances and
Over the long winter
darkness dances and
storytelling took place in the
qasgiq (traditional men’s
house) using these masks.
This is a Nepcetaq
(shaman mask) with face
peering through a
triangular shield, painted
red, white, and black. Ten
feathers are bent through
holes in the upper rim
and sewn in place.
Owl mask
Owl mask with five feathers.
The symbolic meaning of color
varies with the creator of the
mask and the story he or she
is relating.
Recurring colors include red
which may sometimes
symbolize life,
– blood, or give protection to the
mask's wearer;
– black which sometimes
represents death or the
afterlife; and
– white which sometimes can
mean living or winter.
Wolf’s head
Finely carved wolf's head,
with tongue protruding
and (originally) three
black feathers inserted in
the upper rim. Men
continued to carve similar
wolf, fox, bear, and
caribou head masks into
the 1930s.
Human face
• This mask shows a distorted
human face, with one eye
partly closed and wrinkled
• Yup'ik Paul John of Nelson
Island recalled stories about a
strange noise coming from
outside the qasgiq.
• When the people saw the face
of the creature that had come
to them, it would have a bent
face with a sideways mouth.
Traditional dance
John McIntyre performing
with his Issiisaayuq mask,
which tells of the shaman
who foretold the coming
of the first white people.
List of some important values all
Alaska Native Cultures share
Show Respect to Others - Each Person Has a Special Gift
Share what you have - Giving Makes You Richer
Know Who You Are - You Are a Reflection on Your Family
Accept What Life Brings - You Cannot Control Many
Have Patience - Some Things Cannot Be Rushed
List of some important values all
Alaska Native Cultures share
• Live Carefully - What You Do Will Come Back to You
• Take Care of Others - You Cannot Live without Them
• Honor Your Elders - They Show You the Way in Life
• Pray for Guidance - Many Things Are Not Known
• See Connections - All Things Are Related
Yup'ik Values
Love for Children
Respect for Others
Hard work
Family Roles
Knowledge of family tree
Knowledge of Language
Hunter Success
Domestic Skills
Avoid conflict
Respect for nature
Respect For Land
Respect For Nature
More facts
• In a lot of the Yup'ik villages the women and a few men
cut grass and weave it into baskets.
• Many villages are hundreds of miles away from paved
• They are connected to the outside world through
computers, telephones, and daily airplane flights.
• Many things about the Yup'ik lifestyle have changed in
the last several hundred years.
More facts
• These days a lot of people work for schools, stores,
government, and commercial fishing.
• Many families still harvest the traditional subsistence
resources, especially salmon and seal.
• Community pot latches and dance festivals bring people
together throughout the villages, providing their children
knowledge and pride in their culture.
• http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yup'ik
• http://library.thinkquest.org/3877/Yup'ik.html
• http://www.answers.com/topic/yupik-language
• http://www.ankn.uaf.edu/ANCR/Values/index.html
• www.proel.org/ mundo/aleutino.htm