Yup’ik & Cup’ik

People in these two groups live in Southwest Alaska in places like Nome, Unalakleet and Perryville. They are named for the dialects of the languages they speak. Like the Yupik of St. Lawrence Island and the Iñupiaq of northern and northwestern Alaska, they depend upon a subsistence lifestyle for their livelihood, and elders tell stories of traditional ways of life to teach younger generations about their heritage.

Many groups still live a subsistence lifestyle, hunting, fishing and gathering food for survival. They developed sophisticated technologies and equipment using available resources, and traded with inland communities for food and materials they couldn't harvest locally.

Housing styles and the materials used to build them vary from group to group, but semi-subterranean huts with underground tunnels for entrances were common, particularly in the more northern communities. Among the Yup’ik and Cup’ik, males old enough to leave their mothers lived with the men in a qasgiq, or men’s house, which also served as a community center. Women lived in an ena, where the cooking and child rearing was done.

Socially, villages were organized around extended family groups, and rank was determined by the skills an individual offered the community. Shamans played—and still play—an important role in many villages, healing the sick and praying for good hunting or weather.