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Yupik peoples

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Total population
Regions with significant populations
United States
English (Alaska) • Russian (in Siberia) • Yupik languages
Christianity (mostly Eastern Orthodox and Moravian), Shamanism, Atheism
Related ethnic groups
Aleut, Chukchi, Inuit, Iñupiat, Sirenik
Central Alaskan Hooper Bay youth, 1930
A Nunivak Cupʼig man with raven maskette in 1929; the raven (Cupʼig language: tulukarug) is Ellam Cua or the creator deity in the Cupʼig mythology
A Siberian Yupik woman holding walrus tusks, Russia
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (left) swears in Mary Peltola as her husband, Gene (center), looks on. Peltola is a Yupʼik from Western Alaska.

The Yupik (/ˈjpɪk/; Russian: Юпикские народы) are a group of Indigenous or Aboriginal peoples of western, southwestern, and southcentral Alaska and the Russian Far East. They are related to the Inuit and Iñupiat. Yupik peoples include the following:



The Yupʼik people are by far the most numerous of the various Alaska Native groups. They speak the Central Alaskan Yupʼik language, a member of the Eskaleut family of languages.

As of the 2002 United States Census, the Yupik population in the United States numbered more than 24,000,[5] of whom more than 22,000 lived in Alaska, the vast majority in the seventy or so communities in the traditional Yupʼik territory of western and southwestern Alaska.[6] United States census data for Yupik include 2,355 Sugpiat; there are also 1,700 Yupik living in Russia.[7] According to 2019-based United States Census Bureau data, there are 700 Alaskan Natives in Seattle, many of whom are Inuit and Yupik, and almost 7,000 in the state of Washington.[8][9]

Etymology of name


Yupʼik (plural Yupiit) comes from the Yupik word yuk meaning "person" plus the post-base -pik meaning "real" or "genuine". Thus, it literally means "real people."[10] The ethnographic literature sometimes refers to the Yupʼik people or their language as Yuk or Yuit. In the Hooper Bay-Chevak and Nunivak dialects of Yupʼik, both the language and the people are known as Cupʼik.[11]

The use of an apostrophe in the name "Yupʼik", compared to Siberian "Yupik", exemplifies the Central Alaskan Yupʼik's orthography, where "the apostrophe represents gemination [or lengthening] of the ‘pʼ sound".[12]

The "person/people" (human being) in the Yupik and Inuit languages:

Eskaleut languages singular dual plural
Yupik languages Sirenik language йух (none) йугый
Central Siberian Yupik language yuk ? yuit
Naukan Yupik language yuk ? yuget
Central Alaskan Yupʼik language yuk yuuk yuut (< yuuget)
Chevak Cupꞌik dialect cuk cuugek cuuget
Nunivak Cupʼig language cug cuug cuuget
Alutiiq language (Sugpiaq language) suk suuk suuget
Inuit languages Iñupiaq language (Alaskan Inuit language) iñuk iññuk iñuit / iñuich
Inuvialuktun (Western Canadian Inuktun) inuk innuk inuit
Inuktitut (Eastern Canadian Inuktun) inuk (ᐃᓄᒃ) inuuk (ᐃᓅᒃ) inuit (ᐃᓄᐃᑦ)
Greenlandic language (Kalaallisut or West Greenlandic) inuk (none) inuit



The common ancestors of the Eskimo and Aleut (as well as various Paleo-Siberian groups) are believed by anthropologists to have their origin in eastern Siberia, arriving in the Bering Sea area approximately 10,000 years ago.[13] Research on blood types, supported by later linguistic and DNA findings, suggests that the ancestors of other indigenous peoples of the Americas 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,[14] 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.[10]

The Siberian Yupik may represent a back-migration of the Eskimo people to Siberia from Alaska.[15]


Yupʼik mask, Sitka, Alaska, collection of the Alaska State Museum
Yupʼik basket

Traditionally, families spent the spring and summer at fish camp, then joined 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 that included singing, dancing, and storytelling. The qasgiq was used mainly during 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, the qasgiq 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 qayaq (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, the two communal houses 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 approximately five years old, then they would join the men in the qasgiq.

For a period varying between three and six weeks, the boys and girls would switch cultural educational situations, with the men teaching the girls survival, hunting skills, and toolmaking, and the women teaching the boys the skills they taught to the girls.

In Yupʼik group dances, individuals often remain stationary while moving their upper body and arms rhythmically, their gestures accentuated by handheld 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 Yupʼik are unique among native peoples of the Americas in that they name children after the most recent person in the community to have died.

The kuspuk (qaspeq) is a traditional Yupʼik garment worn by both genders. In Alaska, it is worn in both casual and formal settings.

The seal-oil lamp (naniq) was an important piece of furniture.[16]



Five Yupik languages (related to Inuktitut) are still very widely spoken; Yupʼik is the most spoken Native language in Alaska by both population and speakers.[17] This makes Yupʼik the second most spoken indigenous language in the US, after Navajo.[18]

Like the Alaskan Iñupiat, the Alaskan and Siberian Yupik adopted the system of writing developed by Moravian Church missionaries during the 1760s in Greenland. Late 19th-century Moravian missionaries to the Yupik in southwestern Alaska used Yupik in church services and translated the scriptures into the people's language.[19]

Nunivak Cupʼig mother and child, photograph by Edward Curtis, 1930

Russian explorers in the 1800s erroneously identified 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 Southcentral Alaska and Kodiak.

The whole Eskaleut languages family [11] is shown below:

Notable people

Callan Chythlook-Sifsof
  • Mary Peltola (born 1973), currently serving as the U.S. representative from Alaska's at-large congressional district since September 2022; she was formerly a judge on the Orutsararmiut Native Council tribal court as well as executive director of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Bethel city councilor, and member of the Alaska House of Representatives
  • Rita Pitka Blumenstein (1936–2021), first certified traditional doctor in Alaska
  • Callan Chythlook-Sifsof (born 1989), Olympic snowboarder
  • Moses Paukan (1933–2017), businessman and politician
  • Saint Olga Michael (1916-1979), Eastern Orthodox priest's wife (matushka) who was canonized as a saint in 2023 by the Orthodox Church in America
  • Crow Village Sam (1893–1974), Alaskan Native leader

See also



  1. ^ "The American Indian and Alaska Native Population: 2010" (PDF). Census.gov. US Census Bureau. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  2. ^ Achirgina-Arsiak, Tatiana. "Northeastern Siberian: Yupik (Asiatic Eskimo)." Alaska Native Collections. 1996. Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  3. ^ Vakhtin, Nikolai (1998). "Endangered Languages in Northeast Siberia: Siberian Yupik and other Languages of Chukotka" (PDF). Siberian Studies: 162.
  4. ^ a b Video about Yupik communities on St. Lawrence Island, Bering Sea
  5. ^ United States Census Bureau. (2004-06-30). "Table 1. American Indian and Alaska Native Alone and Alone or in Combination Population by Tribe for the United States: 2000." American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes for the United States, Regions, Divisions, and States (PHC-T-18). U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000, special tabulation. Retrieved on 2007-04-12.
  6. ^ United States Census Bureau. (2004-06-30). "Table 16. American Indian and Alaska Native Alone and Alone or in Combination Population by Tribe for Alaska: 2000." American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes for the United States, Regions, Divisions, and States (PHC-T-18). United States Census Bureau, Census 2000, special tabulation. Retrieved on 2007-04-12.
  7. ^ "Yupʼik." U*X*L Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. U*X*L. 2008. Archived 2013-05-15 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Current Alaska Native Tribes Population demographics in Seattle, Washington 2020, 2019 by gender and age". United States Census Bureau and SuburbanStats.org.
  9. ^ "Current Alaska Native Tribes Population demographics in Washington 2020, 2019 by gender and age". United States Census Bureau and SuburbanStats.org.
  10. ^ a b Fienup-Riordan, 1993, p. 10.
  11. ^ a b Alaska Native Language Center Archived January 23, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Jacobson, Steven A. Central Yupʼik and the Schools: A Handbook for Teachers. Juneau: Alaska Native Language Center, 1984. page 5
  13. ^ Naske and Slotnick, 1987, p. 18.
  14. ^ Naske and Slotnick, 1987, pp. 9–10.
  15. ^ "New Light on first peopling of the Americas (summer 2015)," Popular Archaeology, http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/summer-2015/article/new-light-on-first-peopling-of-the-americas, accessed 10 Mar 2017
  16. ^ "National Museum of the American Indian : Yupʼik (Yupik Eskimo) Lamps". Archived from the original on 2017-09-10. Retrieved 2016-07-12.
  17. ^ "Languages - Central Yupʼik | Alaska Native Language Center". www.uaf.edu. Retrieved 2023-06-24.
  18. ^ admin34 (2019-05-16). "Yupʼik: Alaska's First and Second Language". Language Magazine. Retrieved 2023-06-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Ballard, Jan. "In the Steps of Gelelemend: John Henry Killbuck" Archived 2007-08-15 at the Wayback Machine, Jacobsburg Record (Publication of the Jacobsburg Historical Society, Nazareth, Pennsylvania), Volume 33, Issue 1 (Winter 2006): 4–5, accessed 6 December 2011
  20. ^ Johnson, Rick (2019). "yupik people". 1. 12: 120.
  21. ^ Eskimo-Aleut." Ethnologue. Retrieved 21 July 2012.
  22. ^ Boleware, Johnice (2019). "yupik people". 1.

Further reading

  • Barker, James H. (1993). Always Getting Ready — Upterrlainarluta: Yupʼik Eskimo Subsistence in Southwest Alaska. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press.
  • Branson, John and Tim Troll, eds. (2006). Our Story: Readings from Southwest Alaska — An Anthology. Anchorage, Alaska: Alaska Natural History Association.
  • Federal Field Committee for Development Planning in Alaska. (1968). Alaska Natives & The Land. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Fienup-Riordan, Ann. (1983). The Nelson Island Eskimo: Social Structure and Ritual Distribution. Anchorage, Alaska: Alaska Pacific University Press.
  • Fienup-Riordan, Ann. (1990). Eskimo Essays: Yupʼik Lives and How We See Them. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
  • Fienup-Riordan, Ann. (1991). The Real People and the Children of Thunder: The Yupʼik Eskimo Encounter With Moravian Missionaries John and Edith Kilbuck. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Fienup-Riordan, Ann. (1994). Boundaries and Passages: Rule and Ritual in Yupʼik Eskimo Oral Tradition. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Fienup-Riordan, Ann. (1996). The Living Tradition of Yupʼik Masks: Agayuliyararput (Our Way of Making Prayer). Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press.
  • Fienup-Riordan, Ann. (2000). Hunting Tradition in a Changing World: Yupʼik Lives in Alaska Today. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
  • Fienup-Riordan, Ann. (2001). What's in a Name? Becoming a Real Person in a Yupʼik Community. University of Nebraska Press.
  • Jacobson, Steven A., compiler. (1984). Yupʼik Eskimo Dictionary. Fairbanks, Alaska: Alaska Native Language Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
  • Jacobson, Steven A. "Central Yupʼik and the Schools: A Handbook for Teachers". Juneau: Alaska Native Language Center, 1984.
  • Kizzia, Tom. (1991). The Wake of the Unseen Object: Among the Native Cultures of Bush Alaska. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
  • MacLean, Edna Ahgeak. “Culture and Change for Iñupiat and Yupiks of Alaska.” 2004. Alaska. 12 Nov 2008
  • Mithun, Marianne. (1999). The languages of Native North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23228-7 (hbk); ISBN 0-521-29875-X.
  • Morgan, Lael, ed. (1979). Alaska's Native People. Alaska Geographic 6(3). Alaska Geographic Society.
  • Naske, Claus-M. and Herman E. Slotnick. (1987). Alaska: A History of the 49th State, 2nd edition. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Oswalt, Wendell H. (1967). Alaskan Eskimos. Scranton, Pennsylvania: Chandler Publishing Company.
  • Oswalt, Wendell H. (1990). Bashful No Longer: An Alaskan Eskimo Ethnohistory, 1778–1988. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Pete, Mary. (1993). "Coming to Terms." In Barker, 1993, pp. 8–10.
  • Reed, Irene, et al. Yupʼik Eskimo Grammar. Alaska: University of Alaska, 1977.
  • de Reuse, Willem J. (1994). Siberian Yupik Eskimo: The language and its contacts with Chukchi. Studies in indigenous languages of the Americas. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. ISBN 0-87480-397-7.