“Yupik” Society

Lyudmila Ivanovna Aynana
President,“Yupik” Society

The Eskimo Society of Chukotka “Yupik” was founded at the general assembly of Yupik Eskimos on August 2nd, 1990 in Provideniya. The goal of this social organisation is to unite the ethnic population living in the Chukchi Autonomous Province, in various cities of the Russian Federation and abroad, and to persevere their culture, language and traditional way of life.

On January 1st, 2000, there were 1466 Eskimos living in Chukotkan Autonomous Okrug, of these in Providenskiy district: around 800 people, in Chukotskiy district, more than 300, as well as in Yultinskiy district. The significant portion of the Yupik group lives in the village of Uelkal: more than 200 people.

The Eskimo Society of Chukotka “Yupik” is an independent social organisation with its Constitution and an elected executive body. The society has a president, a vice-president and a council of co-presidents from nine communities: the town of Anadyr; the Provideniya settlement; and the villages: Uelen, Lavrentiya, Novoe Chaplino, Sireniki, Uelkal, Ushakovskoe (Vrangel community; now abolished) and Cape Shmidt (several families). “Yupik” is managed from its office in Provideniya.

“Yupik” Society has been a member of the international Inuit Circumpolar Conference (ICC) since 1992. It took part in the following ICC General Assemblies: in Inuvik (Canada) in 1992, in Nome (USA) in 1995 and in Nuuk (Greenland) in 1998. First members of the ICC Executive Committee were: from 1992 to 1995, L. Aynana and Z. Ivanovna; from 1995 to 1995, T. Achirgina and V. Golubeva; and from 1998 to 2002, L. Otrokova and T. Kharchenko.

This is a non-profit organisation. All work is conducted publicly.

“Yupik” takes part in joint projects with indigenous organisations of the State of Alaska (USA). From 1994-1997, the Society was part of the Agreement on the Observation of Distribution and Migration Patterns of the Greenland Whale on the shores of the Chukotkan Peninsula. From 1997-1999, it had a joint project with the United States National Park Service, which was aimed at the development of the traditional ways of exploiting nature and the preservation of biological resources on the territories inhabited by the indigenous population. The “Naukan” Cooperative from Lavrentiya took part in these projects as well.

Yupik Society tries to help all its members thanks to the relatives from Alaska and joint projects with Alaskan indigenous organisations and ICC. It pays special attention to the families of the Ushakovskoe Village (Vrangel community). During the Soviet regime, these families were moved from the Avan settlement in Providenski district to the village of Ushakovskoe, which has been abolished since. They were resettled in Cape Shmidt, but were given bad accommodation and no employment, so a portion of them remained in the Vrangel community. “Yupik” assigned these families a Johnson-40 HP motor for fishing and delivered it to Ushakovskoe with the help of the border patrol in the name of Lev Nanaun, who was, in 1990, a founding member of the Society in Provideniya.

In these times of a profound economic crisis, the indigenous population survives thanks to fishery and the humanitarian aid it receives from Alaska, Canada and Greenland. For the preservation of this ethnic group, it would be necessary to change their socio-economic condition and create employment opportunities, especially for young people.

“Yupik” functions under complicated conditions. In 1999, for instance, the society was abolished by a unilateral decision of the Arbitration Court of the Chukotkan Autonomous Okrug, following the initiative of the former Governor A.V. Nazarov. Since we could not agree with such a position, we held a Yupik assembly on August 5th, 2000 at Provideniya, and ratified the Constitution, which was passed in February 2000. In accordance with the new Constitution, we chose the governing body consisting of the representatives from Provideniya, Anadyr and Lavrentiya. On February 25th, 2001, another assembly was held: the Constitution with Amendments was passed on this occasion.

With the exception of the villagers from Sireniki, all Yupik-Eskimos were resettled from their ancestral territories to other villages in 1950s as part of the village consolidation program. Resettling was supposed to improve the supply of necessary goods to the inhabitants, but the organisers of this action did not take into consideration the traditions of these settlements. For instance, villagers from Unazik (cape Cha-plino), Sikliuk, Kivak, and some of the villagers from Avan were moved to Tkachen Bay (today: village of Novoe Chaplino) in 1958. In Tachen Bay, however, the water freezes for a long time. In such conditions, it is very difficult to fish. In the spring, hunters have to move to Inakhpak in the neighboring region, which can be reached by car from Novoe Chaplino. Often, hunters simply walk, since they have no means of transportation.

While people from Chaplino may live in one village and speak the dialect, which is spread in the Chaplino region, the Eskimos from Naukan went through two resettlements (some even more) and hence their language is not taught anywhere. Consequently, they are losing their culture and language.

The goal of the Society is the preservation of the Eskimo language, in addition to the preservation and development of fishery. We are trying to preserve the native language by offering organised methodological and programmatic help to kindergartens and schools, in which the Eskimo language is being taught. The group responsible for this includes teachers such as G.A. Nakazik, M.I. Sigu-ny-lik, V.F. Ankalina, L.I. Aynana. Our authors took part in the publication of the handbook “Edible Plants and their Preparation” (L. Aynana, I. Zagrebin); “Canoe” (P. Typykhkak, L. Aynana, I. Zagrebin, illustrations by V. Nasalik); and the book “Let the Elders Speak,” written by I. Krupnik, edited by L. Aynana. Currently, L. Aynana, P. Aleinikov, L. Bogoslovskaya, T. Typykhkak and T. Panauge are working on a dictionary, entitled: “Natural Lexicon of Asiatic Eskimos,” written in the Chaplino dialect with Russian and English equivalents, as well as scientific terms for plants and animals in Latin. The dictionary project is partly funded by the Eskimological Institute (Denmark), but additional funds are necessary.