Wednesday, October 27, 2004

You pick!

Here is a local story of sorts regarding a native tribe's desire to resume whale hunts. Quite frankly, I don't care whether they do or don't. Seems reasonable to me they are allowed at least 1 whale a year. Seriously, what harm could that do?

But that is not what I find most fascinating about this story. What is interesting is how the Makah tribe and the Russian Chukotka tribe are intermingling and using each other for support. Why? Well, because they are very different people. You see the reference to the Chukotka dancing as a Yup'ik dance. Yup'ik is Eskimo - I know this because my girlfriend is half Yup'ik from SW Alaska. The cultures are very different. Certainly, the tribes here in the Pacific NW are much different than the tribes of the plains and even of those on the other side of this state, but the Makah are not Eskimo are not anywhere close to Eskimo or Yup'ik regions. I suppose it is the whale hunt that brings them together, but still interesting nonetheless. Obviously, there are ancestral similarities, but they are not limited to those 2 regions at all. I was watching the film "Genghis Blues" with my girlfriend, which took place in Tana Tuva right next to Mongolia, and she made the remark that the men in film all look like her uncles.

It is also interesting to see the Russian Yup'iks as they are the exact same people of the SW Alaska Yup'ik. Obviously, this is not nor should it be a surprise since we did purchase Alaska for dirt cheap from Russia. An interesting fact is that many of the older generation of Yup'iks in Alaska still speak Yup'ik as their first language and very loose English as their second. I'm sure there might even be a number of them who speak Russian, still, but don't quote me on that. As well, the overriding church presence is the Russian Orthodox, followed closely be the Moravians.

A funny story regarding the introduction of the English language by missionaries has to do with the time when they were creating official documents, etc. for the Yup'ik. Because there was a language barrier many misunderstandings took place and the official documents did not reflect their REAL last names, yet some of them stuck with them.

For instance, my girlfriend's last name was supposed to be Ayojak (eye-oh-jack), but when her grandfather was asked what his name was he misunderstood the question and thought they were asking who he was with so used the Yup'ik term for "one of the people" and that became their last name.

And now that many of them speak English, there is a running joke about where the term "Yup'ik" (which is just the Yup'ik term for Eskimo and literally translated to "real person"): When they were discussing what their peoples' name should be everyone looked at each other and said, "I don't know. You pick."

On a side note, all but one of the Yup'iks I have met have been extremely pleasant and very relaxed - even the one who was here while his mother was dying in the hospital. There is definitely a different pace, that is for sure. Even talking seems to take forever and a day, sometimes. They are never in a hurry since there is never anywhere they have to be, and even if there is anyplace they need to be it's 2 blocks away, sort of. It seems like 2 blocks to us gussaks (cracker boys... my girlfriend says it's not sensitive to say "cracker boy" and should write "non-Eskimo". What the heck kind of lefty classes has she been taking? Okay, fine, I'll use "whitey").