Eskimo Essays: Yup'ik Lives and how We See Them

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Rutgers University Press, 1990 - History - 269 pages
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"A wonderful gift to all Alaskans and to thinking people everywhere." --Alaska History Eskimo Essays introduces the reader to important aspects of the ideology and practice of the Yup'ik Eskimos of western Alaska, past and present.The essays point the way toward a fuller recognition of how Yup'ik Eskimos differ from the popular Western image of the Eskimo that was born largely without reference to Yup'ik reality. By describing the reality of Yup'ik life, "Eskimo Essays" extends our understanding of Eskimos in general and Yup'ik Eskimos in particular. Ann Fienup-Riordan argues that Western observers have simultaneously naturalized Eskimos as paragons of simplicity and virtue and historicized them as victims of Western imperialism. This process has often ignored Eskimo concepts of society, history, and personhood. An original assumption of similarity to Western society has profoundly affected the current Euro-American view of Eskimo history and action. Non-natives have taken an idealized Western individual, dressed that person up in polar garb, and then assumed they understood the garment's maker. The result is a presentation of Eskimo society that often tells us more about the meaning we seek in our own. Moreover, modern Eskimos have risen to the challenge and to some extent become what we have made them. Bridging the gap between informed scholarship and popular concepts, Fienup-Riordan provides a compelling and fresh presentation of Yup'ik life--cosmology, the missionary experience, attitudes toward conservation, Eskimo art, the legal system, warfare, and ceremonies. Ann Fienup-Riordan is an anthropologist who has published widely on the Eskimos of Alaska. She was named Historian of the Year by the Alaska Historical Society in 1991, and in 2000, in recognition of "Hunting Tradition in a Changing World."

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This book is a great read. I bought it for a college class, but as we all know, most books don't actually get read. I started reading in the middle, got hooked, and had to finish the entire book out of curiosity. It gives a beautiful insight on the Yup'ik cultures of Alaska. It is written by an anthropologist who lived with Yup'ik people, and therefore has special insights on the inter-workings of the culture. She also tells of her first-hand accounts of cultural and spiritual traditions and ways of life - which is incredibly enthralling. I'm not planning to take a Yup'ik language class just to learn even more about the culture.  


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