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The Cradle of Eskimo Civilization

The Yup'ik occupy the north-east tip of Siberia as well as coastal areas of Alaska. Some Yup'ik families in Russian Siberia have American relatives only a short distance away on Alaska's St. Lawrence Island.

The name Yup'ik means "Real People" (as it does in Inuktitut). In that language, yuk means "person or "human being" and pik is added, meaning "real" or "genuine".

Although there are only about 1,700 Yup'ik on the Russian side of the Bering Strait, close to 20,000 Yup'ik Eskimos live in southwestern Alaska. This coastal area was abundant with sea and land mammals, waterfowl, and fish, and this abundance supported the development and spread of Inuit culture. Some scholars have called this area the "cradle of Eskimo civilization."

Famous for their sea hunting culture, the Yup'ik maintained their traditional way of life well into the 20th century.

They believed in spirits and each village had a shaman who served as a healer and contacted spirit helpers to ward off evil. It was important to respect the sea animals that were depended upon for sustenance, and special ceremonies were held before the departure of hunting boats.

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