For centuries, the Akulmiut people—a Yup’ik group—have been sustained by the annual movements of whitefish. It is a food that sustains and defines them. To this day, many Akulmiut view their actions in the world, as well as their interactions with each other, as having a direct and profound effect on these fish. Not only are fish viewed as responding to human action and intention in many contexts, but the lakes and rivers fish inhabit are likewise viewed as sentient beings, with the ability to respond both positively and negatively to those who travel there.
This bilingual book details the lives of the Akulmiut living in the lake country west of Bethel, Alaska, in the villages of Kasigluk, Nunapitchuk, and Atmautluak. Akulmiut Neqait is based in conversations recorded with the people of these villages as they talk about their uniquely Yup’ik view of the world and how it has weathered periods of immense change in southwest Alaska. While many predicted that globalization would sound the death knoll for many distinctive traditions, these conversations show that Indigenous people all over the planet have sought to appropriate the world in their own terms. For all their new connectedness, the continued relevance of traditional admonitions cannot be denied.