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Artist’s reconstruction of a new fossil species Hemignathus vorpalis (bottom), based on its probable resemblance to adult males of its genus: H. wilsoni (Akiapola’au, above) and H. lucidus hanepepe (Kauai Nukupu’u, middle). Illustration © J. Hume

Kayak model with bird and land-animal designs

L. Brewster, 1930, Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Washington, Seattle 1988-6/1 (101 cm L), Chris Arend


The remarkable 19th-century cultural artifacts of the Alaskan Yup’ik people–a legacy of intelligence and ingenuity–illustrate an intimate relationship between Arctic indigenous people and their environment.

Interactives and objects from the exhibition.

The Yup’ik cultural objects in the exhibition are the legacy of the intelligence and ingenuity of this ancient culture.

The Yup’ik have no word for science. Yet over generations they have mastered the expert knowledge and tools needed to sustain their culture in the sub-arctic tundra along the Bering Sea coast. Visitors to this exhibition will explore beautifully-designed 19th-century Yup’ik Eskimo cultural objects— tools, clothing, containers, weapons, and watercraft—from 13 major collections in the U.S. and Europe. These objects demonstrate deep knowledge of the scientific principles and physical processes that have allowed countless generations of the Yup’ik people to thrive in this harsh climate.

At the exhibition’s core is the recognition that the Yup’ik way of life—both past and present—is grounded in deep spiritual values and sound scientific principles. Based on knowledge shared by Yup’ik elders, this exhibition tells us something about Yup’ik tools and technology in the past and explores what it means to be Yup'ik today. The exhibition reveals the creative nuances of the Yup’ik world as well as the ways in which this tradition continues to inform present-day Yup’ik lives.

Yuungnaqpiallerput is a joint project of the Anchorage Museum and the Calista Elders Council, developed with the guidance of Yup’ik elders, scientists, and educators, with major support from the National Science Foundation.

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