The Yupik are a group of aboriginal people of western and southern central Alaska and Far East Russia. They are Eskimo who are related to Inuit. The rest of the Yupik people are Naukan, Chaplino and Sirenik. These are the Siberian Yupik people of Russian Far East and St. Lawrence Island in western Alaska. They are believed to have originated from Eastern Siberia getting to the Bering sea area about 10,000 years ago. By about 3000 years ago, the progenitors of the Yupik had settled along the coastal areas of western Alaska with migrations up in the coastal rivers of the Yukon Kuskokwim. Yupik have an interesting culture that has given a chance to cope up in a very difficult world’s environment. Even though the term Eskimo is widely used this originated from the anthropologists to differentiate native culture that came up in the circumpolar region.
Historically Yupik communities were composed of an entire family that moved according to the timely movement of animals. During the summer, a lot of activities such as trapping, hunting, fishing gathering and getting ready for a prolonged winter were available. There was plenty of food in the wetlands and tundra of southwest Alaska, but ironically it cost a lot of time for survival during the winter periods, and hunger was intimidating. Teaching and social activity took place during the summer time in permanent and subterranean homes. Men and older boys stayed together in a big communal house called “Qasgiq”. This place was also a social center for the whole community. Here, men taught boys how to hunt, make weapons and tools, as well as a survival skills. Women and children lived in tiny homes called “ena” where they taught girls how to sew, prepare skins and cook. There was a time when the entire community assembled in “Qasgiq” for the elders narrated the stories of their people and history. They could invite other villagers for dancing and festival events, and this was a vital part of the Eskimo culture since it was a means of passing on their oral tradition and histories.
Values and Worldviews
The traditional worldview of the Yupik has covered an organization of reproductive cycling. This view was shown in complicated criteria of naming exercise, ceremonial exchanges and daily living. The criteria needed a careful approach and actions to sustain the correct relationship with human and animal spirits. A hundred years ago Yupik Eskimos have been actively involved in exercising Russians Orthodoxy, Moravian beliefs and Catholicism. Even though, they have left many traditional practices many have been kept, and the customary generation worldwide remains clear in the modern village life.
Habitually shamans practice a high pressure as the outcome of their mantic and healing responsibilities. During the arrivals of the missionaries in nineteen century, they viewed the shamans as their opponents, and many shamans resisted the Christians influence, but still somewhere changed to local Christians. Currently the main Christian denominations in western Alaska are conducted by native pastors.
Education was the key thing in integration. Schools were put up by the missions or state to discourage the learning of the local language. The basic language was English for students who were taken far from home and those who spoke their native Yupik were punished. Coming back to their home village having gone for more than three years to the high school of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, their language or culture had already faded away. They were considered unprepared to pass the tradition to their own children. In 1970, this was reversed as the Yupik organized local sovereignty. More schools opened to teach about the earlier ways of life of the Yupik.
Preconception and Prenatal Care
Advances in preconception and prenatal care have been victorious in dropping menace in many ways. Folic acid supplementation, self-restraint from alcohol, glycemic management in pre-gestational diabetics, and supervision of rhogam have been used in reducing the danger. Though, in general, prenatal morbidity and death has not fallen in the past two decades. During the era of Yupik, the availability or no availability of medicine was not so crucial; giving birth to children was an ongoing process. The midwives were on alert, to attend the expectant mothers. Expectant mothers were not allowed to be near any risky objects or perform a risky duty which could cause harm to them before and after delivery. A lot of preparation was done before the arrival of the newly born baby, such as having food for the mother ready, preparing a place where the newborn baby will be put to sleep and herbs which were in the form of roots from a special kind of trees and dried powdered leaves. Pregnant women were given advice from the female family members especially those encountering first time deliveries. The advice was meant to guide her on the way of handling young baby and responding to the hygienic services in a positive way. Several customs were followed before and after the birth of the baby; these customs were directed by the spiritualist or shaman.
Labor and Birth
Birth was enclosed by many taboos; it was perceived that if an expectant woman walked out of the house backwards, she should have gone against delivery norms or if she sleeps at the uneven time during the day, the end results are giving birth to a lazy baby. Furthermore, the woman went through labor in a squatting position; the back-lying position had been acknowledged by western customs, to be related to a hospital bed. A baby should be given birthin a house detachedfrom that occupied by the family members. If this were not fulfilled, then the hut would have to be left. After the child’s birth, mother was separated from her child for some time depending on the sex of the baby. A baby boy was isolated from his mother for one month whereas the girl for two months. The shaman baptized the baby after eight days, by doing so, the child was given a protective spirit and name. The child was named after the recently deceased family member, to signify the recreation where the qualities of the dead were inherited by the newborn. Within the eight days, the newborn will be killed if considered unwanted, and it will not be termed as murder as long as he/ she is still nameless.
Breastfeeding was regarded as the apt method, to fulfill the dietary and mental requirement of the baby. They also classified it as the means of protecting the baby from the ailments. Breastfeeding helped in producing the anti-infective substances that protected the baby from infectious ailments like diarrhea to which the baby might be exposed in the first few weeks, after delivery. Colostrums played a significant role being considered as the first immunization a baby receives from the mother even though some could be perceived as the dirty and hard to digest.
Orientation Toward Health and Illness
The liberation of health care among the Yupik was a daily conflict between two cultures, western medicine or culture and ancient culture. Their healers were commonly known for using plant and animal products to lessen pain and fasten the body’s natural healing capability. To date part of the knowledge still has its impact. Village health aides are the link between western medicine and the local cure.
Herbal tea is a common solution from the plant called chaithluk or “stink weed”. Leaves are boiled in water, and the drinking of tea is calming for cold and believed to contain antivirals. The boiled leaves are also used on the chest as poultices to loosen the congestion and cough. Fresh raw leaves were also used by placing directly on the skin or cut into small pieces for multipurpose. Crisco is the only main contribution of western culture to the Yupik people. Crisco would be used when chaithluk was out of the season, and nothing was available for use during the summer. Before the arrival of Crisco, rendered fat from different animals such as seal, caribou, walrus and beaver was used. The chaithluk leaves were also used to clean wounds. Dried plants were burned on hot coals, to produce smoke for the coughing patient to inhale. The better way was later introduced in which nebulizer albuterol was incorporated; this was acknowledged to have helped some patients and re- introduction of the whole plant into a steam bath was used as skin stimulant. Some other plants were mostly used for medicinal purpose, the tundra variety of chamomile which gave a small hard yellow berry which was chewed while raw or boiled and drunk as tea for stomach ache or sore mouth. Acne and pimples problem were treated using boiled stinging leaves which were boiled and eaten and drunk as tea. Moreover, the leaves and bark of the willow tree were chewed for their pain and fever relieving. The bark was believed to contain some elements of salicylic acid from which aspirin is made. Minor skin diseases, which were common to Yupik, could also move to a stage of lymphangitis. When a sign of the red streak emerged, many people tied either a red string or cloth around the area to prevent smudge from moving further. The belief was strong that it prevented the red streak from getting nearer to the heart.
In traditional Yupik society, the healing of the sick was done by the spiritualists after being informed by dancing, singing and beating of drums. It would fly the spirit out of the sick. Shaman, in other words, the spiritualist, on the other hand, was considered powerless against the ailment brought by the European and Americans. The disease, which affected the Yupik killing many people, was tuberculosis. Though, alcohol was considered illicit, it was one of the biggest problems among the Yupik. Accidents, homicides, and suicides are higher among the Yupik population. Also, there is a high rate of infant mortality and rapid infant death syndrome and infant spinal disorders. Cancer also is a threat to Yupik. This is caused by the dumping of nuclear waste by the atomic energy commission.
Family Organization and Power Structure
Hardly any leadership roles existed in Yupik family. The eldest male was bestowed with the responsibility of leadership, in addition, to the family management roles, no other innermost head such as an ethnic ruler or leader, was empowered this was because the Yupik family was centered in the order of support and non-aggressive ways. To have a fundamental person would most likely sub-divide this tolerant collective composition. Nevertheless, there was one body, which was seen as a supreme, and he was the spiritualist or shaman. The Yupik did not hold a greatly ordered family. In fact, the organization in their family was nearly non-existent and had no division of order. Yupik tribes can not even be portrayed as political elites, but in its place can be seen as a simplification for biological groups, which shared related languages and traditions.
Politically, the family unit became the principal foundation of makeup in Yupik society. Kinship habitually concerned three generations from the mother’s and father's sides. These extensive families were considered as one as a result of the act of associating hence shared responsibility of the whole group. The families were united and could solve their conflicts collectively. Marriage took place after the man was able to provide for the family or sustain the wife and the woman had reached puberty stage.
Other Reproductive Issues
Physical health issues are related to cultural practices; female genital cutting is worldly recognized as the violation of women or girls' rights. The Yupik exercised the culture of passing the females to genital mutilation. This served as the way of transforming girls to womanhood. It was also taken as the way, to reduce the women's sexuality, which will help in preventing infidelity. It was also a way of enhancing child fertility and child survival. If the woman or girl refused to undergo the procedure, she was separated from her family and seen as unworthy for marriage.