This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner Home Page About ANKN Publications Academic Programs Curriculum Resources Calendar of Events Announcements Site Index This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner This is part of the ANKN Banner
This is part of the ANKN Logo This is part of the ANKN Banner This is part of the ANKN Banner
Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide

Back to HAIL

Honoring Alaska's Indigenous Literature

Nallunairvik (Place of elucidation):

Yup'ik Children's Literature Guide

Cultural Accuracy and Authenticity


The mission of the Nallunairvik Yup'ik Literary Board is to read and critically review children's literature written with Yup'ik content to assure Yup'ik accuracy and relevancy.


To insure that our descendents are taught accurate information about the Yup'ik culture.

To assist parents, teachers and librarians with a guide that will help them in their selection of literature that reflects the lifestyle, history, legends and myths in a culturally appropriate manner.

To provide teachers with suggested culturally relevant activities that will address the content and nature of the book.


We grew up during a time when we were immersed in our Yup'ik cultural ways. When we entered the Western based school setting we begin to read books about us that showed a negative connotation of our lives. For example, we were the "eaters of raw meat", the Eskimos who lived in dirty huts and were always portrayed as happy and smiling. Many of the descriptions of us were mixed with other ethnic cultural groups in North America, often attempting to generalize us with people across the Arctic even though we are a distinct cultural group. Many of these misconceptions of us left us feeling confused and negative about our own people. Throughout our lives we have continually tried to build a positive self- image and identity reflecting who we really are - REAL YUPIIT- accepted by our own Elders, peers and people of the Western world. Therefore, as a professional group of Yup'ik people who have been immersed in the Western-based school system, with the guidance of our Elder(s) we have taken a proactive stand in looking critically at literature written about our people. It is not the traditional Yup'ik custom of our people to be critical of other peoples' work. This task has been extremely difficult for us but we want our future descendents to read literature that reflects accurately and positively the Yup'ik culture.


Cung'auyar Cung'auyar, Annie Blue is a Yup'ik Elder who was born in Qissayaaq (located off the Togiak River) February 21, 1916 and spent much of her youth in the small settlement of Cauyarnaq. She moved to Togiak (South Western Region in Alaska) in 1942 where she continues her residency. She has been a member of the Ciulistet Research Association since 1993. She has been honored as the Alaska Federation of Native Elder of the Year in 1999 and the following year was honored as the AFN Cultural Bearer of the Year. She has traveled to New York City (National Museum of American Indian, Smithsonian Institution located in NYC) and Berlin, Germany (Museum fur Volkerkunde in Berlin) where she served as one of the Elders in Traditional Yup'ik Knowledge Experts. She is currently 87 years old and is grounded in the traditional knowledge of the Yup'ik people.
AyaginaarAyaginaar, John Mark, a retired Yup'ik principal, comes from the village of Quinhagak located in the South Western region of Alaska, where he was born and raised. He received his undergraduate degree from Oregon College of Education in 1981; Masters in Public Administration from the University of Alaska in 1993; taught grades 4th-12th grade in the villages of Tuntutuliak, Eek and Quinhagak; served as the President of the Native Village of Kwinhagak, Quinhagak IRA Council and has served as the President of the Incorporated Fishermen of Quyinhagak; and he is the father of three daughters, one son and one grandson and continues to live in Quinhagak with his wife since 1975.
Yurrliq Yurrliq, Nita Rearden is a Yup'ik woman, born in Kotlik and raised along the Yukon river area living a subsistence lifestyle. Her experiences include teaching in the Northwest Arctic Borough School District in Kotzebue for four years, and another ten years with the Lower Kuskokwim School District as a primary classroom teacher. She enjoyed teaching Yup'ik as a second language for three years in Bethel. Currently, she is working with the Lower Kuskokwim School District in the Academics Department as an Education Specialist. She is a mother of four children, Stefan (married to Alice Aluskak), Spencer (attending master's degree program at Oregon State University), Sara Lynn (teaches at LKSD), and Sterling (11th grade at LKSD). She is a grandmother of two beautiful children, Kyle (5), and Kayla (3). Her husband, Michael is a refuge manager for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bethel. Nita and her family enjoy camping, subsistence hunting and fishing, river trips, traveling outside of Alaska, and visiting with family members. She also enjoys cutting and drying salmon, berrypicking, crocheting, sewing, skiing, ice fishing, and readings.
Arnaq Arnaq, Esther A. Ilutsik grew up in the small village of Aleknagik where she was immersed in the subsistence way of life. She is the daughter of the late George and Lena Ilutsik. She is the mother of two children, Kanaglak who is currently attending the University of Alaska Anchorage; and Atkiq who is attending high school in Sitka. She currently resides in Dillingham and is employed with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Bristol Bay Campus as Assistant Professor with the Center for Cross-cultural Studies (Alaska Rural Systemic Initiative). She is one of the founding members of the Ciulistet Research Association and continues to address the unique educational needs of the Yup'ik people.

Books Reviewed

The purpose of the Nallunairvik (Place of elucidation): Yup'ik Children's Literature Guide is to review ALL books written about Yup'ik culture to ensure cultural accuracy and authenticity. The reviews will look at both fiction and non-fiction, ranging from picture books to anthologies, bibliographies, both in the Yup'ik and the English language. The reviews will contain the standard bibliographical data (authors and illustrator), ISBN and cataloguing numbers, suggested grade level of readers, a review, recommendation for seasonally appropriate time to read the book and a list of activities that teachers may use to enhance the quality of book. The reviews will also highlight the Yup'ik genre's quliraq - traditional Yup'ik legend (an oral story that has been handed down through the generations with similar versions crossing the Cup'ik and Yup'ik cultural boundaries); ilakellriit qulirait - traditional Yup'ik legends (an oral story that has been handed down through the generations within a certain family); qalamciq/qalangssak - a Yup'ik story (an oral story of a recent event); qanellrit piciurtut - a Yup'ik prediction story (what our ancestors have shared in story form of things to come to pass); and Alerquun - a Yup'ik advisory story (rules, values, belief, teachings, saying and laws as found within the harmonious ways of Yup'ik life). The reviews conclude with one of three ratings: "recommended", recommended with reservation" and "not recommended".


Recommended with Reservation

Not Recommended

The Eye of the Needle, 1990

Dance on a Sealskin, 1995

Minuk: Ashes in the Pathyway, 2002

The Hungry Giant of the Tundra, 1993

Children of the Midnight Sun: Young Native Voices of Alaska, 1998

Tundra Mouse, 1997

Kitaq Goes Ice Fishing, 1998

Yup'ik Lore Oral Traditions of an Eskimo People, third printing 2000

Cumerrnariuq (Time For Grass Cutting)

How the Crane Got Its Blue Eyes

Taprarmiuni Kassiyulriit
Stebbins Dance Festival

Earth Dyes Nuunam Qaralirkai, 1983


The Eye of the Needle

Publisher: Dutton, 1990
ISBN # 0-525-44623-0
Retold and Illustrated by Teri Sloat

Teri Sloat has lived and taught in Yup'ik villages in Alaska for eleven years.
Based on a Yup'ik tale as told by Betty Huffman, a Yup'ik Elder from the Bethel region. She is a retired Yup'ik teacher.

Grade Level: Primary K-3rd grade

Theme: ilakellriit qulirait / Yup'ik family legend

Status: Recommended


This is a delightful ilakellriit qulirait / Yup'ik family legend. The story unfolds with the grandmother and grandson living alone in a typical seashore setting off the coastal villages of the Bering Sea. Spring has come bringing with it the seasonal fish and sea mammals. Grandmother knows that her grandson has come of age to hunt and instructs him to go out to hunt. He ventures out and has an experience of his life consuming foods that are beyond his imagination. His actions are fortunately corrected through the Grandmothers' magical needle. The story is a positive portrayal of the Yup'ik culture with the exception of "giving" the grandson a name (Amik). Most stories in this context do not provide names for either the grandmother or the grandson. The relationship between the grandmother and grandson are positive and ideal representations of the Yup'ik people. The book teaches the importance of respecting and obeying the grandmother and the providing, storing and sharing of the food - a very important subsistence aspect of the Yup'ik culture. One of the very important elements and highlights of the story is the importance of kalukaq - presenting a feast in honor of the young hunters first catch. This is a significant part of the story, although the traditional term is not used. The story emphasized the importance of sharing of food in the context of feasts in the belief that the gifts of food will be repaid. Within the context of the story the needle is magical. The reason for that emphasis is because in traditional times the needle was a very important tool and continues to be so to this day. In traditional times both male and female carried their needle with them at all times. The story includes many Yup'ik morals that the teachers and students may discuss.

The illustrations are an excellent representation of the Yup'ik life during the pre-contact (1890) period.

Season: Spring but can also be read in the Fall

Suggested Teaching Topics

The subject of the Alaska Native peoples of Alaska should be acknowledged, not just as a subject, with respect for the people themselves. Many of the Alaska Native people may not be connected to their Yup'ik culture and heritage. This story should be shared as a ilakellriit qulirait / Yup'ik family legend. The teacher should have a good understanding of ilakellriit qulirait / Yup'ik family legend and Quliraq / Traditional Yup'ik Legend so that a comparison can be made. DO NOT COMPARE WITH FAIRYTALES.

  • Prediction (e.g. "What animal will he catch next?")
  • Extension Activities: Art Projects, Science, Math, Health, etc.
  • Sequencing; Patterning
  • Local Animals - Subsistence Activities: Edible and non-edible animals
  • Adapt to Plays and Drama
  • Yup'ik Value Highlights
    • relationship between grandma and grandson are positive examples of the Yup'ik culture
    • teaches that grandma's are loving persons no matter what the grandson does
    • the grandson has an opportunity to learn from his mistakes
    • the needle is a special tool that a women or man never traveled without
    • processing of the food
    • respect the animal from the catch to preparation for food consumption, clothing and proper disposal of bones and other parts of the animal (make sure that this process is in line with the local Elders values and beliefs).
  • Needle Unit: The needle was a very important tool in the pre-contact/contact (steel) period among the Yup'ik people. The needle was used for many things - with special cases (such as a case made out of bird bones, cloth, skin, wood, etc.) made to carry so that it was always carried with you. Needles were made of many different materials and sizes and used for many different types of materials and projects. It was used to:
    • To mend clothes
    • To take out splinters from flesh
    • To mend tents, boots, dog sleds, harness, backpacks, kayak skins, etc

Children of the Midnight Sun: Young Native Voices of Alaska

Publisher: Alaska Northwest Books, 1998
ISBN # 0-88240-500-4
Profiles by Tricia Brown. Brown is former editor of Alaska magazine and currently lives in Anchorage.
Photographs by Roy Corral has lived in Alaska for more than thirty years. He currently lives in Eagle River.

Grade Level: Middle School Theme: Non-fiction - Current lives of Alaska Native ChildrenStatus: Recommended with reservation.


Ms. Brown writes and explores the current lives of eight Alaska Native children (Yup'ik, Inupiat, Aleut, Athabascan, Tlingit, Tsimshiam, and Haida), all sharing the life-styles that they currently live. The photographer depicts those children in activities that relate to the content of the story. At the front of the book is a map of Alaska highlighting the villages where the young authors of the book are located. The map could use a little more clarification detailing the Siberian Yup'ik, Cup'ik, Aluttiq, Unangan and other distinct language areas. The foreword was written by an Unangan/Aleut Larry Merculieff who writes, " This book gives everyone another avenue for listening to what our children are saying," implying that information is written by the children themselves. He compliments the works of Editor Tricia Brown and the sensitive photography of Roy Corral

The introduction by Editor Tricia Brown cites some misinformation about the migration pattern of the Alaska Native people, for example on page 9, second paragraph where she writes and describes the migration pattern of our ancestors. This information is misleading to our children because it doesn't give a traditional account of our own people - instead it implies that our land was populated by people who migrated to North and Central America from Asia.

Russian Christmas on the Kuskokwim River by Andrea Hoelscher, Yup'ik Page 29-31The section features Andrea Hoelscher, a twelve year old Yup'ik who lives in the village of Lower Kalskag and highlights the Russian Orthodox Christmas. The main theme of the story is intertwined with a brief history of community, environment, geographical area and summer camp, father's occupation, main Yup'ik cultural activities in dancing and how the local culture is being taught within the school. The story ends with the conclusion of the Russian Orthodox service.

There is far too much information imbedded within the three pages that does not focus on the main theme of the story (Russian Orthodox Christmas), and there is not enough information on Russian Orthodox Christmas within the story to get a good understanding of the celebration and even the use of the word "Selvi" vs "Slavic," - the latter known and understood within the communities that practice this religion; The use of "ulus" is a Inupiaq term, whereas in Yup'ik it is "uluaq." Her description of a qaspeq is incorrect - it is not a shirt dress, but a hooded garment worn by both men and women. Her description of the Yup'ik dance performers is inaccurate as it doesn't exemplify the gentleness, gracefulness and beauty of the dance, and she lacks understanding of the Yup'ik spirituality and ceremonies. The Yupiit do not believe in reincarnation! We are not reincarnated when we are given a Yup'ik name - rather we acquire some of the good characteristics of our namesakes. She doesn't have a good understanding of the geographical area and confuses the reader. She is trying to convey too much information in three pages and doesn't do justice to the Russian Orthodox celebration nor the Yup'ik culture.

Season: Winter (Christmas Holiday Celebrations)

Suggested Teaching Topics

Russian Orthodox is celebrated in many parts of Alaska of often most known as "Slavic". Begin a discussion on how "Slavic" is practiced differently in each of the communities. Where do the majority of those who celebrate this holiday live? Do they have a different school calendar?

Make a list of concepts and ideas that are not representative of the Yup'ik cultural group (baleen, reincarnation, the processing of fish, etc.) and discuss the need for authors and illustrators who are of the cultural group being represented.


Local Elders Knowledge of the Russian Orthodox Christmas Practices Boundaries and Passages by Ann Fienup Riordan The Living Traditions of Yup'ik Masks by Ann Fienup-Riordan Agayuliyaraput: Our Way of Making Prayer by Marie Mead

Dance on a Sealskin

Publisher: Alaska Northwest Books, 1995
ISBN # 0-88240-443-1

Author and Illustrator

Written by Barbara Winslow who lived and taught in Yup'ik villages in Southwestern Alaska for many years but currently teaches school in Norridgework, Maine (1989) Illustrated by Teri Sloat who had lived and taught in Yup'ik villages in Southwestern Alaska for many years.
Grade Level: K-3 (Primary) Theme: Picture Story Book; Realistic FictionStatus: Recommended with reservation


This eye-catching, bright, colorful book takes you into a young Yup'ik girls "rite of passage" as seen from an outsider's perspective. It is the custom amongst the Yup'ik people to present and honor their young people with a potlatch as they present their first public dance. This custom is still practiced in some of the communities in Western Alaska and varies in presentation from village to village, so that it is hard to determine whether the author who is non-Native was able to convey the true understanding and meaning behind these practices. The author is grateful to Waska Charles from Emmonak for his reading of the manuscript and corrected the Yup'ik spelling. The illustrations are colorful and beautifully presented, although some have minor misrepresentation of the cultural group portrayed.

Season: Fall, Winter

Suggested Teaching Topics
  • Differences between Yup'ik and Inupiaq -look at the illustrations - which culture do they represent e.g a polar bear lives within the land of the Inupiaqs-why would people want to interchange between the two cultures in this case e.g dance skin drums - what are they made of from the two cultural regions?
  • Rite -of -Passage Ceremony -new clothing-processing -giving and sharing
  • Naming ceremony -was this a practice done in private or public forum-is this practice still used be the people -emphasizing the Yup'ik names of those that have passed on
  • Spirituality -what are some of the beliefs and practices - are these beliefs and practices still being done
  • Value of the Drum -what materials are used in making drums-who was responsible for making the drum-who were the owners of the drum-who were the drummers and why
  • Songs -where and who originated the songs -how were the songs composed (verses and chorus) -does the song tell the story of the first dancer?
  • Traditional Kinship -relationship between those who have passed on and newborns-how namesakes are treated-special terms used in kinships


It is recommended that those teachers who use this book should have a good understanding of the Yup'ik culture (recommended reading: Taprarmiuni Kassiyulriit/Stebbins Dance Festival) so that they can share with the students the correct Yup'ik content but also use this information to bring about discussions that may include the following topics:

The Hungry Giant of the Tundra

Publisher: Dutton Children's Book, 1993
ISBN # 0-525-45126-9

Author and Illustrator Retold by Teri Sloat who has lived and taught in the remove villages of Nunapitchuk, Kotlik, Kalskag, Oscarville, and Bethel. Based on a Yup'ik tale told by Olinka Michael, a master storyteller in the village of KwethlukIllustrated by Robert and Teri Sloat are married and both have taught for many years in the remote villages of Alaska.

Grade Level: Primary K-3Theme: Quliraq / Traditional Yup'ik Legend
Status: Recommended


The tale retold in this book is a quliraq /traditional Yup'ik legend that is widely known throughout the Yup'ik region. It is about a giant named A ka gua gan kak (the correct Yup'ik written form is Akaguagaankaaq) who ventures out at night looking for children who are wandering about. The illustrations in the story accurately depict the landscape where the oral tale was shared and that is the community of Kwethluk. Although the clothing that the children of the community are wearing do not reflect the modern wooden homes that are shown in the background. Instead of all wearing a "qaspeq" the children should have been dressed in T-shirts, windbreaks, etc. The story flows very well and is a story that is known throughout the Yup'ik region with many different versions. Elder Annie Blue of Togiak has heard the story but a different version. In her version the youngest child of the group is the one who is able to help them escape by untying the pant legs and calling for the crane. She then continues by yelling at the giant and encourages him to drink from the river and has the crane stretch his legs. As the giant is attempting to cross the crane legs begin to shake and the giant falls off and bursts as he hits the bottom of the river. Annie emphasizes that there are many versions of this story and these should be investigated at the site where the story is being used.

Season: Fall

Suggested Teaching Topics
  • Behavior -Teaches children the importance of listening to parents-Taught us how to be problem solvers; indirectly how to behave-Everyone makes mistakes but we can correct our mistakes by listening to stories
  • The small bird signifies that help can come in many forms (sizes).
  • That birds are helpful from the small songbird to the crane
  • That everyone can find a way out-of a tough situation by problem solving
  • That children are well-taken care of
  • Be aware of what others are saying even if they appear to be small and insignificant (even the smallest member of the group can contribute to the solving of problems).

Kitaq Goes Ice Fishing Publisher

Alaska Northwest Books, 1998
ISBN # 0-88240-504-7

Author and Illustrator

Written by Margaret Nicolai who is non-Native and married to a Yup'ik man and currently lives in Anchorage with husband and three children.Illustrated by David Rubin who is also non-Native but has lived in Alaska since 1983. Alaska Northwest Books, 1998
Grade Level: Primary K-3 and 4th - 5th GradeTheme: Picture Story Book & Personal experience Status: Recommended
ReviewThis book is based on the authors own personal family experience and is delightful to read. The book is reflective of the traditional protocol (e.g. asking too many questions) that may or may not occur with cross-cultural marriages. Both cultural values are embedded in the story. With the lighting of the oil lamp it would indicate that this story takes place in the 1950's. If you look at homes at that time the people within the small communities throughout Alaska had yet to be introduced to the rug mat as shown in the story, but other than that the illustrations reflect a positive home life of a Yup'ik family. The story is a wonderful story and reflects the unique relationship that would occur between the grandfather and grandson, but far too many direct questions occur within the story that would not be reflective of the Yup'ik culture. Also, the young lads name is not reflective of a genuine Yup'ik name. The book teaches the importance of patience, endurance, limits, sharing and being recognized as a contributing member of the household.

Season: Winter

Suggested Teaching Topics

  • Relationship between grandfather and grandchild
  • Grandfather as child's first teachers
  • Childs's first catch
  • Importance of male child
  • Importance and emphasize the child's role of participating in an adult chore ROLE VS CATCH

Minuk: Ashes in the Pathway

Publisher: Pleasant Company Publications, 2002 ISBN # 1-58485-520-7
Author and Illustrator Written by Kirkpatrick Hill

Kirkpatrick Hill was raised in Fairbanks, Alaska and received degrees in English and education from Syracuse University in New York. She has been an elementary school teacher for more than thirty years, spending most of her time in multigrade classrooms or one-room schoolhouses in the Alaskan "bush." She is the author of two other books set in Alaska, Toughboy and Sister and Winter Camp. The mother of six children and the grandmother of three, Ms. Hill currently lives in Fairbanks, Alaska.Illustrations by Patrick Faricy Pleasant Company Publications, 2002.

Grade Level: n/aTheme: Historical Fiction Status: Not Recommended


Minuk: Ashes in the Pathway is a book detailing the life of a young Yup'ik girl as imagined by the non-native author, though very little documentation exists of Yup'ik women and girls during that period of time, the 1800's. Unfortunately, Elder Annie Blue was puzzled with the title Minuk:Ashes in the Pathway and when we found the passage where the title was derived from (the protocol for the use of ash within the Yup'ik culture) it made her all the more upset. She stated, "This young girl knows too much about life, in reality she would not understand nor have heard of these practices." And "We do not just spread ashes anywhere especially in the pathway-that is not the custom of our people." In addition Annie expressed that within the Yup'ik culture, knowledge of this nature is sacred and not to be shared shamelessly in public. As we continued to read and translate the text to her she became more upset and we couldn't keep up with all the comments she made as she identified misconceptions that it was portraying of our people. There are too many inaccuracies for this book to be used to teach about the Yup'ik culture. A young mind and person who does not have sufficient cultural grounding will begin to believe the inaccuracies about themselves and their people.

This book is not recommended!

Season: n/a

Suggested Teaching Topics: Use at College Level: Sample of Incorrect Information, SPECIFICALLY FOR A YUP'IK WOMEN'S STUDY CLASS.

Tundra Mouse

Publisher: Orchard Books, 1997ISBN # 0-531-30047-1
Written by Megan McDonald who has a BA in English and a Masters in Library Science from the University of Pittsburg. She currently lives in Sebastopol, California.
Illustrated by S.D. Schindler, who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Orchard Books, 1997

Grade Level: Primary K-3Theme: Picture Story Book Status: Not Recommended


This story attempts to portray how story-knife stories unique to the Yup'ik people of Alaska were told. Lena the young storyteller begins with figures in the mud showing two young Yup'ik girls walking and watching out for mouse holes. The story attempts to share the process of gathering edible roots from mice caches and intertwining it with the Western based Christmas holidays. It doesn't do justice to either cultural group as the caches are raided only during certain seasons of the year and special rituals follow the taking of these edible roots. Many of the illustrations depict cultural inaccuracies. For example the knife used by the Grandmother is a man's knife and the kamekssiik or mukluks are Inupiaq style. There are lots of misspelled Yup'ik words throughout the book. It appears that the author solicited the help of Elena Charles of Bethel in using story knife symbols that unfortunately were not in line with the illustrated story.

Season n/a

Suggested Teaching Topics Use at High School and College Level: Sample of Incorrect Information

Yupik Lore Oral Traditions of an Eskimo People

Publisher: Lower Kuskokwim School District, Third Printing 2000
First Published 1981ISBN # 81-81640
General Editors Edward A.Tennant at the time of publication is listed as Executive Director of Educational Research Associates, Inc. in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Joseph N. Bitar (no information is listed).

The Yup'ik Lore stories were transcribed, translated, and edited by several hard-working people whose names are listed in the acknowledgements. The "real" authors are the Elders and community members who willingly shared this information with high school student who were enrolled in the Cultural Heritage Program with the Lower Kuskokwim School District .

Grade Level:

Middle and High School


Quliraq / Traditional Yup'ik Legends, Family Teaching and Common Sense; History and Customs,

Status: Recommended


This book is written both in Yup'ik and English and shares many insights into the Yup'ik people. It comes with high recommendation and should be used in a cultural class or a Yup'ik language class. There are six different themes beginning with nine short stories - this section is a mixture of Yup'ik historical accounts of personal and mythical events. The next section is entitled " Eskimo History and Customs" which includes twelve narratives that address Yup'ik history and customs. This is followed with seven narratives on the "Eskimo Family Teachings and Common Sense" and eight narratives on "Eskimo Know-how." "Yup'ik Fables" were addressed in two narratives and "Myths and Legends" were presented in twelve narratives. The use of "Eskimo" is improper as they are writing narratives shared by Yup'ik people, and some narratives overlap while others are misplaced.

Season: All

Suggested Teaching Topics

  • Yup'ik Language Class
  • Culture Class
  • History or region

Cumerrnariuq / Time for Grass Cutting

ISBN 1-58084-022-4Publisher: Lower Kuskokwim School District,
Written by Rosalie Lincoln (Yup'ik)
Illustrated by Susie Moses (Yup'ik)Both the author and illustrator have written and illustrated numerous books for the LKSD's Bilingual Department to be used in their school district's Yup'ik Language programs.

Grade Level:

Yup'ik Level Seven (3rd grade) Theme: qalamciq/qalangssak - a Yup'ik story (an oral story of a recent event)

Status: Recommended


Cumerrnariuq is a qalamciq/qalangssak - a Yup'ik oral story of a recent event where the parents take the children on an excursion to gather wild beach rye grass. The title of the story is very appropriate to the story because it explains and validates the concept of the activity and how people prepare, gather and store food and/or materials/resources for each season. The author reflects on her own experiences in the gathering of the wild beach grass. Her use of her own Yup'ik Nelson Island dialect is evident throughout the story. She imbeds within the story the proper cultural protocol for how traditional Yup'ik parents include their children in activities of this nature. We can only detect a minor cultural inconsistency where the young child praises her mother, which is not common amongst the traditional Yup'ik people (Western influenced). The illustrator's own cultural knowledge and experience is reflected throughout the book as she herself is part of the Yup'ik culture. It is common for Yup'ik people to sit and work on the floor as illustrated thoughout the book

Season: Fall and Spring

Suggested Teaching Topics:

  • Explain the term cumerrnariuq to the children e.g How do your parents prepare you to start school in the fall?- buying school supplies, counting the number of days before school starts,
    buying new clothes, and talking to you about school
  • Unit Types of Grass and It's Uses


Earth Dyes (Nuunam Qaralirkai) Dyes for Grass Made from Natural Materials By Rita Pitka Blumenstein and The Institute of Alaska Native Arts

Taprarmiuni Kassiyulriit/Stebbins Dance Festival

Publisher: Alaska Native Language Center; (March 1, 2004)
ISBN # 1-55500-083-5

As told by Anatole Bogeyaktuk and Charlie Steve, who were members of the last generation of Yup'ik men to be raised in the qasgi (men's house) and who witnessed first-hand the dances and gift-giving of celebrations near the village of Stebbins, Alaska. Interviewed by Rose Anna Dan Waghiyi, who was born in Atrivik, located on the north side of Stebbins. She teaches Yup'ik language and cultural traditions at the local Stebbins school. She records all the old and new songs used in potlatches that are still a part of the cultural activities in Stebbin. Mary Alexander Wondzell was born and raised in Scotland. During her work at Kawerak, Inc. in Nome, Alaska she developed the Bering Straits Elders Conference. The stories were transcribed and translated by the late Sophie Shield who was an educator with the Lower Kuskokwim School District in Bethel. Her work includes "Qulirat Qanemcit-Illu Kinguvarcimalriit/Stories for Future Generations: The Oratory of Yup'ik Eskimo Elder Paul John." Translator Marie Meade is a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage where she teaches Yup'ik Language and Culture. Her work is featured at the National Museum for the American Indian where Elders from the Yup'ik region are highlighted. The book is edited by Ann Fienup-Riordan who is an anthropologist and editorial author of many books on the Yup'ik people of Alaska with the help of those Elders who have willingly shared their knowledge and life experiences through translators Marie Meade and Alice Rearden. All photographs are by Suzi Jones, who is currently Deputy Director of Anchorage Museum of History and Art, and James H. Barker of the Alaska State Council on the Arts. These photographs are held in the Traditional Native Arts Program Collection, Archives and Manuscripts, Alaska Polar and Regions Department University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Grade Level:

High School and College Level Good Resource for teachers and parents

Theme: Historical

Status: Recommended


This is a wonderful book to read and share with students about the traditional Stebbins Dance Festival with some photos from Kotlik community members who have been a partner in Kevgiq celebrations. At the beginning of the book Ann Fienup-Riordan gives a simple explanation of the Stebbins potlatch, followed with a brief explanation about the complexities that are involved in Yup'ik transcription and translation. Following this introduction the book details the actual interview of the two Elders. One side of the page is Yup'ik and other side is the English translation. At the end of the book is a glossary which is very helpful in clarifying Yup'ik terms used within the book.

Season: Fall and Winter

Suggested Teaching Activities

  • Include when introducing traditional Yup'ik ceremonies /potlatches -values of giving, sharing and humor
  • Include in Yup'ik Language Classes - just copy the Yup'ik version and have the students translate and then compare with the translation as written in the book.

How the Crane Got Its Blue Eyes

Publisher: Curriculum/Bilingual Department, Lower Kuskokwim School District, 1996
ISBN # 1-55036-505-3

As told by Jean Cook, Kwigillingok, Alaska; Written by Elsie Jimmie,Kwigillingok; Editors by Anna A. Andrew and Betty A. Gilman. Illustrated by Elsie Jimmie, Kwigillingok, Levi Hoover, Kasignluk, Renee Crow, Napakiak and Kelly Lincoln, Toksook. Computer Artist Cara Bunk The author(s) and illustrator (s) have written and illustrated numerous books for the LKSD's Bilingual Department to be used in their school district's Yup'ik Language programs.

Grade Level: K-5; High School

Theme: Quliraq / Traditional Yup'ik Legends

Status: Recommended


Quliraq are stories that are told with lessons embedded within them, as is so evident within this story about a crane who is out eating berries and as a result gets his blue eyes. The illustrations are simple and colorful. The story flows well and is delightfully short!

Season: Fall or Spring

Suggested Teaching Topics

  • Discipline: teaching about lying
  • Science : cycle of berries and habitat; seeing the world through colors;
  • Yup'ik Language class - upper levels get copy of text in Yup'ik and have the students translate and then compare with translation in translated text.

Earth Dyes: Nuunam Qaralirkat

The Institute of Alaska Native Arts, 1983
Written by Rita Pitka Blumenstein;
Edited by Jan Steinbright

Rita Pitka Blumenstein was born on a fishing boat on the way to her mother's village of Tununak in Western Alaska. She is of Yup'ik, Athabascan, Aleut and Russian ancestry. She is an expert Yup'ik basket maker and healer. She currently resides in Anchorage.

Grade Level: Middle School to High School Theme: Qalamciq/qalangssak- a Yup'ik story (an oral story of a recent event)

Status: Highly Recommended


Rita shared her cultural knowledge about her experience of growing up observing, learning, hearing stories, and working with her mother on the use of natural materials to make dyes for sewing grass baskets. This book is informational and descriptive.

Season: Fall - Winter - Spring

Suggested Teaching Topics

  • Grass Basket Unit -Art, Science, Folklore



Go to University of AlaskaThe University of Alaska Fairbanks is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer, educational institution, and provider is a part of the University of Alaska system. Learn more about UA's notice of nondiscrimination.


Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
Questions or comments?
Last modified August 21, 2006