416 pages, 30 colour & 31 b/w illustrations
Ellavut / Our Yup'ik World and Weather is a result of nearly ten years of gatherings among Yup'ik elders to document the qanruyutet (words of wisdom) that guide their interactions with the environment. In an effort to educate their own young people as well as people outside the community, the elders discussed the practical skills necessary to live in a harsh environment, stressing the ethical and philosophical aspects of the Yup'ik relationship with the land, ocean, snow, weather, and environmental change, among many other elements of the natural world.
At every gathering, at least one elder repeated the Yup'ik adage, "The world is changing following its people". The Yup'ik see environmental change as directly related not just to human actions, such as overfishing or burning fossil fuels, but also to human interactions. The elders encourage young people to learn traditional rules and proper behavior – to act with compassion and restraint – in order to reverse negative impacts on their world. They speak not only to educate young people on the practical skills they need to survive but also on the knowing and responsive nature of the world in which they live.
"Ellavut builds on a decade of careful, collaborative ethnographic research with elders on the west coast of Alaska. It sets a high bar for studies of local environmental knowledge by positioning local knowledge in the context provided by the narrators and letting local people drive the narrative."
– Julie Cruikshank, author of Do Glaciers Listen? Local Knowledge, Colonial Encounters, and Social Imagination
"Few works on Native knowledge drill down this deep or are done with this breadth and depth of collaboration. Ellavut will be a touchstone and standard of excellence for how to carry out research in aboriginal communities. It is a remarkable testament to a remarkable group of elders and their knowledge and ways of being in the world."
– Thomas Thornton, University of Oxford
"Ellavut takes its place alongside such classics on indigenous views of the environment as Keith Basso's Wisdom Sits in Places and Richard Nelson's Make Prayers to the Raven. Essential."
– Choice, November 2012
"This stunning work will be of great interest to Yup'ik people, oral historians, geographers, and anthropologists. More broadly [...] fellow global citizens could benefit from the words and reflections of the Elders, which inspire reconceptualization of humanity's relationship to the environment as based on reciprocation, not domination."
– Meagan Gough, Oral History Review, September 2013
"Fienup-Riordan's forty years of intimate collaboration with Nelson Island elders has enabled her to successfully give the English-speaking public a sense of being instructed by the elders themselves [...] It is the kind of work that could not be produced by anyone else."
– Steve Street, Alaska History, Vol. 23, No. 2
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