Guide to the Central Alaskan Yup'ik Collection


The Yup'ik collection is currently being cataloged. Thank you for your patience. [October 15, 2010]


All materials in the Central Alaskan Yup’ik collection are either written in or about the Central Alaskan Yup’ik language.  The earliest documents date from the late 1800s.  Materials prior to the 1970s largely relate to ethnographic accounts, wordlists, and, especially in the 1900s, religious texts by Russian Orthodox, Jesuit Catholic, and Moravian missionaries.  The bulk of the collection dates from the 1970s and includes a large number of educational materials such as literacy manuals and children’s primers and stories in the various Central Alaskan Yup’ik dialects.  Also significant are the materials relating to the lexical and grammatical work of Steven A. Jacobson, Osahito Miyaoka, and E. Irene Reed.  Traditional texts are also well represented.  Some of the collection consists of photocopied material representing original material held by other repositories, and certain reproduction and use restriction apply. 

Language Information

Central Alaskan Yup'ik consists of five distinct dialects spoken from the Seward Peninsula south to Norton Sound: General Central Yup'ik (the main dialect); Norton Sound, Hooper Bay-Chevak, Nunivak, and Egegik. In the Hooper Bay-Chevak and Nunivak dialects, the name for the language and the people is "Cup'ik" (pronounced Chup-pik).  Central Alaskan Yup’ik is the largest of Alaska’s Native languages:  of a total population of about 21,000 people, about 10,000 are speakers of the language. Children still grow up speaking Yup'ik as their first language in 17 of 68 Yup'ik villages, those mainly located on the lower Kuskokwim River, on Nelson Island, and along the coast between the Kuskokwim River and Nelson Island.  The current orthography for Central Alaskan Yup’ik was developed by Irene Reed and others at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in the 1960s; this work led to Alaska’s first school bilingual programs in th four Yup’ik villages in the early 1970s.  Since then, a wide variety of educational and linguistic materials have been created in Central Alaskan Yup’ik.

Scope and Content Note

The scope of the Central Alaskan Yup’ik language collection is quite broad in that it strives to include all material written or published in or about the Central Alaskan Yup’ik Language.  Dr. Michael Krauss made an effort to collect all things Central Alaskan Yup’ik, and has developed a nearly comprehensive collection. Collection development has slowed in the late 1990s, and the later part of the collection is currently not comprehensive.  Many items in the collection owe their presence to contributions by Steven Jacobson and Irene Reed of the Alaska Native Language Center.

The Alaska Native Language Center Central Alaskan Yup’ik manuscript holdings contain approximately 700 items dating between 1778 and 2006.  There is only one wordlist from 1778 from Cook’s expedition; thereafter, there is a gap of more than 40 years before the next wordlists from Russian expeditions.  There are more records from the second half of the 19th century, largely from expedition or ethnographic reports (e.g. Nelson) or from the early American religious missions of the Catholic and Moravian churches in Alaska; linguistic material is mostly in the form of wordlists throughout this period, although there are some grammatical notes as well.  In some cases, where Central Alaskan Yup’ik is secondary to the work, only the relevant pages of a work have been photocopied and included in the Central Alaskan Yup’ik collection.

From the 1900s to about the early 1960s, many of the materials are religious in nature, such as the translation of the Gospels, prayers, and the liturgy into various Central Alaskan Yup’ik dialects.  The production of religious works continues to this day, as evidenced by works such as the Moravian Christmas Pagent by Mary Gregory in 1985.  The period from the 1960s on, however, shows a flowering of work on educational materials and on linguistic documentation, in the form of dictionaries (e.g. Jacobson’s Yupik Eskimo Dictionary), grammars and grammatical sketches (e.g. Jacobson’s Practical Grammar of the Central Alaskan Yup’ik Eskimo Language, and Miyaoka’s Preliminaries to a Grammar of Central Alaskan Yup’ik), and more specific linguistic studies (e.g. Yupik Eskimo Prosodic Systems, ed. by Krauss). There are also significant numbers of items relating to the development of orthography and literacy in Central Alaskan Yup’ik, including early works relating to Helper Neck’s independent orthography (late 19th century), as well as the more recent efforts to create a standard orthography (1960s).

The bulk of the collection dates from the mid-1960s to the present; well over half of the items are educational materials, including literacy manuals, children’s primers and stories in the various Central Alaskan Yup’ik dialects, and workshop or classroom notes.  Central Alaskan Yup’ik has been taught at the University of Alaska Fairbanks as well as at its rural branch in Bethel, and some of the class materials are found in the Central Alaskan Yup’ik collection.  There is also significant fieldwork on the lexicon, particularly relating to efforts to produce an Central Alaskan Yup’ik dictionary (e.g. Jacobson), and to produce grammars and grammatical sketches (e.g. Jacobson, Miyaoka, Reed, and others). Traditional texts are also well represented, both in English and Central Alaskan Yup’ik; notable texts include traditional narratives told by Anna Jacobson, and the first novel in the language, also by Anna Jacobson. 

Extent:  20 manuscript boxes, 2 8x24 boxes, 12 linear feet of unprocessed materials, covering 30 linear feet.

Languages: Collection languages are primarily Central Alaskan Yup’ik and English, although some materials are in Russian. Some documents offers Central Alaskan Yup’ik words in comparison to other Eskimo languages in Alaska.