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Yuuyaraq: The Way of the Human Being

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The re-enactment conveys what the Yup’ik word Yuuyaraq means.

This paper provides an introduction to key aspects of Yup’ik Inuit culture and context from both historical and contemporary community member perspectives. Its purpose is to provide a framework for understanding the development and implementation of a prevention initiative centered on youth in two communities in Southwest Alaska as part of collaboration with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Institutes of Health. This paper is written from the perspective of elders and local prevention workers from each of the two prevention communities. The co-authors discuss their culture and their community from their own perspectives, drawing from direct experience and from ancestral knowledge gained through learning and living the Yuuyaraq or the Yup’ik way of life. The authors of this paper identity key aspects of traditional Yup’ik culture that once contributed to the adaptability and survivability of their ancestors, particularly through times of hardship and social disruption. These key processes and practices represent dimensions of culture in a Yup’ik context that contribute to personal and collective growth, protection and wellbeing. Intervention development in Yup’ik communities requires bridging historical cultural frames with contemporary contexts and shifting focus from reviving cultural activities to repairing and revitalizing cultural systems that structure community.

This paper describes the Yup’ik way of life from tribal community member and elder perspectives. The co-authors discuss their culture and their community from their own perspectives; drawing from direct experience and from ancestral knowledge gained through learning and living the Yuuyaraq or the Yup’ik way of life. The authors point out that while no life is free of trouble, children in their own communities are growing up and experiencing stress and hardship unlike that occurring in the lives of children raised in the dominant society. It is against this backdrop that the intervention development work was undertaken in the communities to give children the strengths and skills they need to survive as Yup’ik people today. The authors present aspects of their community histories, indigenous knowledge and social customs that they identify as most important to the community intervention research described in this special issue.

yuuyaraq, which roughly means “the way of being a human.”


By Dawne Ulak and Felicia Wassillie

Yuuyaraq is the Yupik word that means the way of life. This word defines the basic values that we abide by in our village: honesty, caring, sharing, hard work and respect. Each quality of Yuuyaraq has been passed on from past generations.

Scammon Bay is a small community on the west coast of Alaska just about a mile away from the salty Bering Sea. Scammon Bay lies right on the side of the Askinuk Mountains and is home to 550+ Yupik Natives, each of which live by the characteristics of Yuuyaraq. Scammon Bay and its people can be described as beautiful, but the best way to describe the people is that they are hard working laborers. Scammon Bay consists of two grocery stores and two snack/movie rental stores, both of which are profitable businesses. Our town is similar to any other town in bush Alaska because it has the typical unpaved airport, a river for the summer time travel and the usual vehicle seen in every village (four-wheelers, boats and snow machines). The people of Scammon Bay practice subsistence by hunting, fishing and picking berries to provide for their families.

Scammon Bay has recently added a new building to the community naming it the Scammon Bay School. The Lower Yukon School District site, Scammon Bay School, opened its doors back in 2005, with sweet success. The school is located on the Askinuk Mountains and is a 10 to 15 minute walk from the village. The school provides many academic activities and extra-curricular activities. There are many,many opportunities given to the students of Scammon Bay School.


The re-enactment conveys what the Yup’ik word Yuuyaraq means.

Napoleon said Alaska Native cultures are going through a reawakening and he hopes Lisle Hebert’s film adaptation of Yuuyaraq will contribute to it.

Napoleon said Alaska Native cultures are going through a reawakening and he hopes Lisle Hebert’s film adaptation of Yuuyaraq will contribute to it.