Hunting Tradition in a Changing World by Ann Fienup-Riordan

Subtitled “Yup’ik Lives in Alaska Today”, this is the second book I read in preparation of my internship. Unfortunately, unlike the white paper I read, I had a much hard time concentrating on the stories presented here.

The Yupit (plural of Yup’ik) are a large subgroup of Inuit culture (also known as Native Alaskan, or Eskimo) with more than 20,000 individuals living in seventy villages across southwestern Alaska. The Yup’ik traditionally engaged in hunting activities with seasonal shifts in the environment. During the twentieth century, however, the Yup’ik people experienced massive cultural change.

To explain how the Yup’ik people are navigating cultural change and main their cultural identity, Fienup-Riordan recounts how the Yupit use metaphors and stories to teach each other about their past and present lives, how they maintain their identity even while moving away from native villages, and how they work with museums on an exhibition of Yup’ik ceremonial masks.

I’m afraid this is one instance where more background knowledge is necessary to really follow the book’s presentation. I’m not familiar with the Yupit (or any Native Alaskan groups, really), and I couldn’t help but wish for one good introduction to this culture before being thrown into a dissection of cultural and community. This is also a series of stories and vignettes rather than one cohesive narrative, which could have contributed to my confusion.

Book Mentioned:

  • Fienup-Riordan, Ann. Hunting Tradition in a Changing World: Yup’ik Lives in Alaska Today. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000. Print. 334 pgs. ISBN: 9780813528052. Source: Borrowed.
Book Cover © Rutgers University Press. Retrieved: May 31, 2012.

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