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The St. Lawrence Island Famine and Epidemic, 1878-80: A Yupik Narrative in Cultural and Historical Context

Aron L. Crowell and Estelle Oozevaseuk
Arctic Anthropology
Vol. 43, No. 1 (2006), pp. 1-19
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40316652
Page Count: 19
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The St. Lawrence Island Famine and Epidemic, 1878-80: A Yupik Narrative in Cultural and Historical Context
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Abstract

A collaborative study of the Smithsonian Institution's ethnology collections has inspired the narration of Alaska Native oral traditions, including Yupik Elder Estelle Oozevaseuk's re-telling (in 2001) of the story of Kukulek village and the St. Lawrence Island famine and epidemic of 1878-80. The loss of at least 1,000 lives and all but two of the island's villages was a devastating event that is well documented in historical sources and archaeology, as well as multiple Yupik accounts. Yupiget have transmitted memories of extreme weather, bad hunting conditions, and a wave of fatal contagion that swept the island. The Kukulek narrative, with origins traceable to the late nineteenth century, provides a spiritual perspective on the disaster's underlying cause, found in the Kukulek people's disrespect toward the animal beings that sustained them. This paper explores the cultural and historical contexts of this narrative, and contrasts it with Western perspectives.

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