The Real People of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta
A primary reason I wanted to come to Bethel, Alaska was to work for the Alaskan Native people here, to return to my involvement with Tribal Nations. Across Alaska, the Alaskan Native Peoples are divided into eleven distinct cultures. This means eleven different languages, too, and there are twenty two dialects to go along. Where I live in the Southwest ( the Yukon-Kuskokwim river delta), the local families are primarily The Yup’ik and Cup’ik People. The name Yup’ik, or Yupiaq, applies not only to the people but also to the language. It comes from two words—yuk, meaning “person” or “human being,” and pik, meaning “real” are named after the two main dialects of the Yup’ik language, also known as Yup’ik and Cup’ik. The Yup’ik and Cup’ik still depend upon subsistence fishing, hunting and gathering for food, and I am glad to know people who, like me, support hunting, berry picking and fishing. Elders here will tell stories of traditional ways of life, as a way to teach the younger generations survival skills such as hunting and fishing, harvesting foods off the tundra, and other methods of sharing tribal ideals and keeping their heritage passed to the younger generations.
A very large part of the family activities is to go out on the tundra around the region and go berry picking. In my first week here I had a chance to go out for cranberries and late season blueberries. The cranberries are a beautiful bright red color, and they are tart and yummy. I was able to get quite a few, so I have some stored in the freezer for winter.