Sugpiaq dancer with Agnguaq
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States (Alaska)||34,000|
|Yupik languages, English (in Alaska),
Russian (in Siberia)
|Christianity (mostly Russian Orthodox and Moravian), Shamanism, Atheism|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Aleut, Inuit, Iñupiat, Sirenik|
The Yupik are a group of indigenous or aboriginal peoples of western, southwestern, and southcentral Alaska and the Russian Far East. They are Eskimo and are related to the Inuit and Iñupiat peoples. Yupik peoples include the following:
- Alutiiq, or Sugpiaq, of the Alaska Peninsula
- Alaska Peninsula and coastal and island areas of southcentral Alaska
- Central Alaskan Yup'ik of the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta, the Kuskokwim River, and along the northern coast of Bristol Bay as far east as Nushagak Bay and the northern Alaska Peninsula at Naknek River and Egegik Bay in Alaska
- Siberian Yupik, including Naukan, Chaplino, and Sirenik of the Russian Far East and St. Lawrence Island in western Alaska
As of the 2001 U.S. Census, the Yupik population in the United States numbered over 24,000, of whom over 22,000 lived in Alaska, the vast majority in the seventy or so communities in the traditional Yup'ik territory of western and southwestern Alaska. US census data for Yupik include 2,355 Sugpiaq; there are also 1,700 Yupik living in Russia.
Etymology of name
Yup'ik (plural Yupiit) comes from the Yup'ik word yuk meaning "person" plus the post-base -pik meaning "real" or "genuine." Thus, it means literally "real people." The ethnographic literature sometimes refers to the Yup'ik people or their language as Yuk or Yuit. In the Hooper Bay-Chevak and Nunivak dialects of Yup'ik, both the language and the people are known as Cup'ik.
The use of an apostrophe in the name "Yup’ik", compared to Siberian "Yupik", exemplifies the Central Yup’ik’s orthography, where "the apostrophe represents gemination [or lengthening] of the ‘p’ sound".
The "person/people" (human being) in the Eskimo (Yupik and Inuit) languages:
|Central Alaskan Yup’ik||yuk||yuuk||yuut (< yuuget)|
|Alutiiq or Sugpiaq||suk||suuk||suuget|
|Iñupiaq or Alaskan Inuit||iñuk||iñuuk||iñuit / iñuich|
|Inuvialuk or Western Canadian Inuit||inuk||innuk||inuit|
|Inuktitut or Eastern Canadian Inuit||inuk||inuuk||inuit|
|Greenlandic or Kalaallisut||inuk||(none)||inuit|
The common ancestors of the Eskimo and Aleut (as well as various Paleo-Siberian groups) are believed by archaeologists to have their origin in eastern Siberia, arriving in the Bering Sea area about 10,000 years ago. Research on blood types, confirmed by later linguistic and DNA findings, suggests that the ancestors of American Indians reached North America before the ancestors of the Eskimo and Aleut. There appear to have been several waves of migration from Siberia to the Americas by way of the Bering land bridge, which became exposed between 20,000 and 8,000 years ago during periods of glaciation. By about 3,000 years ago, the progenitors of the Yupiit had settled along the coastal areas of what would become western Alaska, with migrations up the coastal rivers—notably the Yukon and Kuskokwim—around 1400 AD, eventually reaching as far upriver as Paimiut on the Yukon and Crow Village on the Kuskokwim.
The Siberian Yupik may represent a back-migration of the Eskimo people to Siberia from Alaska.
Traditionally, families spent the spring and summer at fish camp, then joined with others at village sites for the winter. Many families still harvest the traditional subsistence resources, especially Pacific salmon and seal.
The men's communal house, the qasgiq, was the community center for ceremonies and festivals which included singing, dancing, and storytelling. The qasgiq 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 (kayaks) during the winter months in the qasgiq. The ceremonies involve a shaman.
The women's house, the ena, was traditionally right next door. In some areas they were connected by a tunnel. Women taught the young girls how to tan hides and sew, process and cook game and fish, and weave. Boys would live with their mothers until they were about five years old, then they would live in the qasgiq. Each winter, for a period of between three and 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.
In Yup'ik group dances, individuals often remain stationary while moving their upper body and arms rhythmically, their gestures accentuated by hand held dance fans, very similar in design to Cherokee dance fans. The limited motion by no means limits the expressiveness of the dances, which can be gracefully flowing, bursting with energy, or wryly humorous.
The Yup'ik are unique among native peoples of the Americas in that they name children after the last person in the community to have died.
The Alaskan and Siberian Yupik, like the Alaskan Inupiat,adopted the system of writing developed by Moravian Church missionaries during the 1760s in Greenland. The Alaskan Yupik and Inupiat are the only Northern indigenous peoples to have developed their own system of hieroglyphics, but this system that died with its creators. Late nineteenth-century Moravian missionaries to the Yupik in southwestern Alaska used Yupik in church services, and translated the scriptures into the people's language.
Russian explorers in the 1800s erroneously called the Yupik people bordering the territory of the somewhat unrelated Aleut as also Aleut, or Alutiiq, in Yupik. By tradition, this term has remained in use, as well as Sugpiaq, both of which refer to the Yupik of South Central Alaska and Kodiak.
- Eskimo–Aleut languages
- Aleut language
- Eskimo languages
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