Skip to main content.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Website Search Box
{search_item}

Department of Anthropology

Arctic Studies Center

Links News Culture Exhibit Nelson Home

Geography as recorded by Nelson

nelson map

"The belt bordering the AlaskanCoast of Bering Sea belonging to this district is mainly low, and much of it consists of broad marshy tracts which are but little above sea level." (Nelson 1899: 23) During Nelson's expedition and even today, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is a coastal lowland, with innumerable rivers cutting across the wetland tundra.


The Dangers of Hunting as recorded by Nelson

"One hunter told me of an instance in which he and a companion, both in kyaks, had an encounter with one of these animals. They were hunting among the drift ice off Cape Vancouver one day in spring when his companion saw and killed a young Walrus without knowing that the old one was about. A moment later the parent arose from the water and catching sight of them uttered a hoarse, bellowing cry and swam rapidly towards them. Both hunters paddled for thier lives to a large piece of ice close by and landed upon it just in time to escape thier pursuer. Here they were kept prisoners nearly the entire day..." (Nelson 1887:269)

Belief Systems as recorded by Nelson

ravenIn the Yup'ik belief system all living animals have a spirit or inua. In paticular, the raven holds an important place in Yup'ik mythos. "Where the first man lived there had now grown a large village, for the people did everything as Raven directed them, and as soon as a child was born it was rubbed with clay and so caused to grow to its full stature in three days. One day Raven came back and sat by Man, and they talked of many things. Man asked Raven about the land he had made in the sky. Raven said that he had made a fine land there, whereupon Man asked to be taken to see it. This was agreed to and they started towards the sky where they arrived in a short time... There man found himself in a beautiful country with a very much better climate than that on earth. The people living there wore handsomely made fur clothing worked in ornamental patterns, such as people now wear on earth; for Man on his return, showed his people how to make clothes in this manner, and the patterns have been retained ever since" (Nelson 1899:457)

More About Yup'ik Culture

The below video is a two-hour long lecture by the Arctic Studies Center's Director, William Fitzhugh. The lecture was given to the hall's docents to teach them a little more about Yup'ik Culture.

video platform video management video solutions video player

Watch a lecture about the Yup'ik culture presented by the ASC's director, William Fitzhugh on April 5, 2010 to the hall's cultural interpreters. For more information please visit the Anchorage Museum site. Filming courtsey of NMNH Education Department.

This website generously supported by the National Science Foundation's Arctic Programs.
Copyright ASC 2010

[ TOP ]