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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska

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Yupiit living along the Bering Sea coast south of the mouth of the Yukon River regularly engaged in violent conflict with more northern riverine Yupiit prior to the 1840s AD arrival of Russian explorers and traders. The conflict is known as the Bow and Arrow War Days, and outside Alaska few people are aware of it. Local oral histories tell of the war, and archaeological and historical sources provide complementary details. This article documents war events and techniques for war for one specific area: the Triangle in Yup'ik Alaska.
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Ethnohistory 574 (Fall 2010) 10.1215/00141801-2010-036
Copyright 2010 by American Society for Ethnohistory
The Bow and Arrow War Days on the
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska
Caroline Funk, Independent Researcher
Abstract. Yupiit living along the Bering Sea coast south of the mouth of the Yukon
River regularly engaged in violent conict with more northern riverine Yupiit prior
to the 1840s AD arrival of Russian explorers and traders. The conict is known as
the Bow and Arrow War Days, and outside Alaska few people are aware of it. Local
oral histories tell of the war, and archaeological and historical sources provide com-
plementary details. This article documents war events and techniques for war for
one specic area: the Triangle in Yup’ik Alaska.
The Bow and Arrow War Days imperiled lives and made legends of great
men and women in the Yup’ik world prior to the arrival of Russians in the
mid-1800s AD. The Yup’ik conicts, ranging from deadly to merely threat-
ening, comprised one portion of a nearly pan-Alaska period of violence
(O’Leary n.d.). During the hundreds of years of these wars, regional Yup’ik
social and political organizations formed uid alliances against equally
mutable enemy cohorts. The full range of the conicts extended far to the
north and south to encompass the entire Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and
most Yupiit. This article is concerned specically with the Bow and Arrow
Wars between the Yupiit/Cupiit from along the Bering Sea coast south of
the mouth of the Yukon River and the riverine Yupiit who lived closer to St.
Michael (g. 1).
The origins of these wars are unknown. The end of the period of con-
ict roughly coincided with the circa 1840s arrival of Russian traders and
explorers in the rivers and bays of the Alaska mainland. No Bow and Arrow
War–related raids, attacks, or battles were observed by the Russians or the
later Americans, and no observations of the war appear in historical sources.
Local oral traditions include information about the period of conict, and
Ethnohistory
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524 Caroline Funk
much can be extrapolated from modern oral histories. The information in
this article about the Bow and Arrow War Days comes mainly from the
oral histories recorded as part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
(ANCSA) 14(h)(1) investigations performed by the Bureau of Indian Aairs
(BIA) in the late 1970s to early 1990s (Pratt 2009b). Ethnohistorical infor-
mation about the Bow and Arrow Wars originates in the journals of the
few Europeans and Americans who traveled in the area in the mid- to late
1800s. These journals document an earlier oral tradition about the wars.
This article begins with an introduction to the region and an explana-
tion of why the histories of this war are unknown to many people, and it
continues with a brief analysis of the ANCSA oral histories. Following the
descriptive process employed by Ernest S. Burch Jr. in his discussion of Iñu-
piaq conict (2005), the main body of the article describes the local expla-
Figure 1. The Yup’ik region. Yup’ik Bow and Arrow War eects resonated through-
out the entire Yup’ik region. Alaska base map, ADNR, 1984
Ethnohistory
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 525
nations of the causes of the wars and the processes of war. Descriptions of
the end of the long-term conict conclude the article.
The rst goal of this study is to relate the Bow and Arrow War Days
as remembered by elders in the 1980s and as it was explained by Yupiit to
early explorers. This is not a critical or historical analysis but an aggregate
retelling of the war oral histories. The Bow and Arrow War Days had a sig-
nicant impact on Yup’ik culture, so much so that all regional cultural ana-
lyses should include this socially cataclysmic process.
The second goal of the paper is to add the information about Yup’ik
war to the growing body of knowledge regarding hunter-gatherer war. The
presence of war and its causes in prehistoric contexts among indigenous
small-scale societies are important topics in anthropological research (Fer-
guson and Whitehead 2000 [1992]; Haas 1990; Keeley 1996; Lambert 2002;
LeBlanc 2003; Martin and Frayer 1997; Otterbein 2004, among others).
This article documents what is known about the history and processes of
the Yup’ik Bow and Arrow Wars in one small region, and it will serve as
a source of hypotheses for theoretical archaeological inquiries regarding
hunter-gatherer warfare.
Research in Alaska has targeted conict among cultures directly to
the north and south of the Yup’ik culture area: the Iñupiaq (Burch 2005;
Sheehan 1997; Sheppard 2009) and Aleut (Maschner and Reedy-Maschner
1998). However, little has been published about the Yup’ik Bow and Arrow
Wars in this region, except as a minor component of cultural studies (Frink
2003, 2007; Oswalt 1990). Ann Fienup-Riordan (1990, 1994) and others
present information about Yup’ik war in other areas of the delta.
Several unpublished manuscripts (Kurtz 1985; O’Leary n.d., 1999) and
hundreds of oral history tapes provide signicant information about the
details of the conict. The audio tapes record expansive and unstructured
oral histories, and one of the major topics is the Bow and Arrow Wars. Ene-
mies and alliances, events and processes, training and recovering from raids
are all described from both sides of the conict. As might be expected, the
two sides tell dierent oral histories and remember events dierently (Joe
and Beans 1984), lending depth and texture to the Bow and Arrow War
Days. This article brings together a series of war accounts from local oral
histories and information from ethnohistoric records to create a complete
picture of the Yup’ik Bow and Arrow Wars in one coastal region.
The Triangle: Territory and History of Alliance
The modern villages of Chevak, Hooper Bay, and Scammon Bay on the west
coast of Alaska are located in an area often called the “Triangle” (see g. 1).
The Triangle is located between the Yukon and Kuskokwim Rivers on a
Ethnohistory
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526 Caroline Funk
wide marshy plain bounded by the Black and Manokinak rivers (g. 2). The
villagers of the Triangle are linked today and share histories: their ancestors
often banded together against outside enemies in the past. The villagers are
Yupik in the broadest cultural denition; however, a distinction is made
between the Cupik of Chevak and Hooper Bay and the Yupik of Hooper
Bay and Scammon Bay.
All Yupiit originate on the deltas of western Alaska, and the expansive
area includes many regional social and political groups (see g. 3). Now
and in the past these groups were dened by territory, language, social
aliation, and historical relationships (Andrews 1989; Fienup-Riordan
1990, 1994; O’Leary n.d.; Pratt 1984a). Commonalities in Yup’ik culture
transcend local group denitions, but each region has specic and distinc-
tive cultural attributes, including dialect and local histories. The distinct
and autonomous Iñupiaq “nations” to the north are an analogous social
Figure 2. Villages and rivers in the war zone. Triangle area villagers tended to have
enemies to the north and east in the most recent Bow and Arrow War Days. Alaska
base map, ADNR, 1984
Ethnohistory
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 527
form (Burch 1998, 2005). Like the Iñupiaq nations, aliated Yup’ik social
groups engaged in many types of relations with people who were not mem-
bers of their group (as noted in Burch 2005). Yupik and Cupik within
the Triangle historically are people of two nations who allied themselves
regularly against people from more socially and physically distant Yup’ik
nations. The strongest ties might be expected between the villagers of the
same nation, and in fact, this proved to be the case in many of the war events
and processes described below.
The Triangle area is a at and watery landscape with the exception of
Kusilvak Mountain and the Askinuk Mountains closer to the coast. The
entire landscape is prone to ooding, subject to tides, and patchily covered
in permafrost. Subsistence resources include marine, freshwater, and ana-
dromous sh species, sea mammals, furbearers, and migratory waterfowl.
Greens and other plant resources like berries are important in the sum-
mer and fall. A major caribou herd migrated into the area annually until
the early 1900s. Yupiit moved seasonally from village to camp, following
resources throughout the year (Funk 2005).
Ancestors of local Yupiit have lived in the area for at least two thou-
sand culturally dynamic years (Shaw 1983). The earliest dened culture
in the area is the Norton Tradition (about two thousand years ago). The
Norton era people had a terrestrial and maritime hunter-gatherer adapta-
tion and lived in large, semipermanent villages (Dumond 1984: 104–105,
1987: 100; Shaw 1983: 318, 1993). People of the Norton culture hunted and
shed the area with chipped slate tools and sh nets and used a checker-
stamped pottery for lamps and possibly cooking (see Dumond 1987; Frink
and Harry 2008; Shaw 1983). In fact, Robert D. Shaw hypothesizes that the
development of net sinkers and an ecient shing technology created an
eective use of the watery region, resulting in population growth through
migration into the area (Shaw 1998).
New cultural practices developed about one thousand years ago, indi-
cating a changing adaptation or the arrival of people of the Thule culture
(Dumond 1987: 126–33; Oswalt 1952; Shaw 1983: 318, 1993). The Thule cul-
tural tradition probably originated farther to the north in the Bering Strait
area and in northern Alaska, but through an as yet unknown mechanism
its people or their inuence spread through the North American Arctic
and Subarctic (Dumond 1987). The new lifeway included dierent material
technologies and a greater emphasis on marine resources (Dumond 1984:
102; Harritt 1988: 189–191; Nowak 1988: 152; Shaw 1983: 321–22; Shep-
pard 1988: 137–41). Particularly signicant was a stronger emphasis on sea
mammal hunting, the use of dog sleds, and a tradition of combat marked by
use of the bow and arrow and hide and wood armor (Dumond 1987). Com-
Ethnohistory
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528 Caroline Funk
mon interpretations postulate that the mix of earlier Norton cultural and
material attributes with the later Thule characteristics resulted in the local
Yup’ik culture present at historical contact (Dumond 1987: 133–36; Shaw
1983). This transition may not have been benign, and social interaction rec-
ognized only by changing material culture may mark the start of the Bow
and Arrow War Days.
Distinct national sociopolitical entities shared a general Yup’ik
material life and cultural perception, even as they divided the delta and the
Triangle over the past thousand years (g. 3). The smallest identity groups
formed at the village level and were marked by village-naming conventions.
Figure 3. Microscale nations. The Magemiut and Asqinurmiut comprise several
smaller culture groups. Alaska base map, ADNR, 1984
Ethnohistory
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 529
Each historical village name was associated with a culture group name; for
example, Qissunaq village was occupied by Qissunamiut. The sux -miut
means “the people of.The place name plus the -miut sux includes all
people living in the main village and all people living in smaller family
camps in the general vicinity of the village who assembled in the main vil-
lage for events throughout the year. Several village identities were present in
the Triangle area during the Bow and Arrow War Days: Qissunamiut, Qavi-
narmiut, Nuvugmiut, Englullugpagmiut, and so on. Some of the larger vil-
lages were occupied contemporaneously, but it seems at most three or four
main villages were simultaneously occupied.
Groups of villages often recognized a larger corporate unity. For
example, the Qissunamiut and Qavinarmiut were of the Magemiut, or
Marayarmiut (Fienup-Riordan 1984, 1990, 1994; Kurtz 1985: 6; Nelson
1983 [1899]; O’Leary n.d.; Pratt 1984a, b; Zagoskin 1967); in fact, the
people of all the villages antecedent to Chevak and Hooper Bay in the south-
ern and eastern portion of the Triangle belonged to the Magemiut. People
of the villages ancestral to Scammon Bay to the north and west belonged
to the Asqinurmiut. These two political entities frequently allied, or at least
did not raid one another, and descendants of these groups are the men and
women who dene the area as the Triangle today (Smith 1981). Of course,
the group names and geographic placement of people were in the midst
of major demographic change in the mid- to late 1800s when many of the
names were recorded. These names may be only the most recent manifesta-
tions of the small and large groups who exibly interacted on many levels
(Fienup-Riordan 1994).
The Bow and Arrow War Days are little known outside Alaska. This
may be due to the erroneous notion held among Westerners that Eskimos
in general, and Yupiit in particular, are peaceful, loving individuals (Briggs
1970; Burch 2005; Fienup-Riordan 1990: 146–66, 1994: 321–22). Accord-
ing to Fienup-Riordan, this “pernicious pacism” was initially fostered by
the typically nonviolent historical interactions between Yupiit and white
traders and missionaries (1994: 324). She suggests that since the west coast
of Alaska was not subjected to the intense Manifest Destiny process, Yupiit
did not respond violently to Westerners (ibid.). Hence, people tend to think
of Yupiit as peaceful—or emphasize the harmonizing aspects of Yup’ik cos-
mology while ignoring the high violence and murder within the culture
(Fienup-Riordan 1994: 321–26). In fact, it is only in the suppressed notes
of John Kilbuck, an early Moravian missionary to the area, that Fienup-
Riordan found evidence for violence during the historical era (1994: 322).
Ethnohistory
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530 Caroline Funk
The United States Bureau of Indian Aairs
and the Bow and Arrow War Days
The Bow and Arrow War Days are a major topic in the series of oral histo-
ries recorded in the Triangle area by the BIA in the 1980s. Ninety-seven of
the 232 tapes relating to Triangle villages include discussions of the wars,
with 174 discussions by 38 men and women. The BIA interviews created an
incredibly textured resource about the wars and many other topics. How-
ever, the specic legal context in which the interview process was con-
ducted aected the information in the oral history tapes.
In 1971, ANCSA granted 40 million acres of land in Alaska to newly
formed Alaskan Native corporations (Pratt 1992: 74, 2009a; Pratt and
Slaughter 1989: 5). Section 14(h)(1) of this act allowed the for-prot native
corporations formed by the act to receive historical and cemetery sites as a
portion of their land entitlement (Drozda 1995: 100; Pratt 1992: 74, 2009a;
Pratt and Slaughter 1989: 5). The United States BIA ANCSA Project Oce
was established in 1978 to investigate sites of potential historical signi-
cance or those housing burials. ANCSA site application investigations
included three components of research: archival, oral historical, and eld
survey. The processes utilized to record oral historical information are of
interest here.
From 1978 to 1991, 1,100 interview tapes were recorded with over 400
elders on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta as a whole (Pratt 1992: 76–77). The
oral histories used in the current study were selected based on the extent
of the geographic knowledge of the fty-nine interviewed elders from the
modern villages of Chevak, Hooper Bay, and Scammon Bay and are spe-
cically about the Triangle area. The interviewees were between forty and
eighty years of age. A diversity of perspectives is represented in the war oral
histories: men and women, people aliated with dierent sides of the con-
ict, inhabitants of dierent home villages within the Triangle, and people
known as historians as well as those casually interested in the past all were
interviewed.
Teams of federal employees recorded the oral histories (Drozda 1995:
109–10). Interviews were arranged with a minimum of one or two elders
and at least one local translator. They were held in public meeting places or
on sites and were often conducted in a question-and-answer format inter-
spersed with free discussion. Interviewees discussed who lived and died in
camps and villages, when these places were occupied, and what activities
were performed in relation to each place, and they talked more generally
about land use, technology, social organization, religious and ceremonial
life, culture change, language, ethnography, and war (Pratt 1992: 75).
Ethnohistory
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 531
Working with the ANCSA Oral Histories
The ANCSA tapes, like all other oral histories, include information of vari-
able contextual coherence. Most of the war oral histories were discussed in
multiple interviews (table 1), eectively creating a “group memory” process
of correction (Burch 2005; Goody 2000; Vansina 1985). Common themes
such as raiding, escaping, and weapon construction appear many times.
Some dierences in versions are clear inaccuracies; others result from an
interviewee’s origin village, completeness of knowledge, or gender. For
example, men from the Triangle area tend to emphasize the role of women
as engineers of escapes, while men from outside the area tell the same oral
histories with men playing key roles. Women tend to recollect minutiae of
the war, such as how to keep children quiet to avoid attack, while men tend
to recount entire raid cycles from initial instigation to nal resolution.
Knowledge stored in oral histories is mutable also because social, politi-
cal, legal, or economic contexts change what is emphasized or related in
each telling (Cruikshank 1998: 49, 95; Morrow and Schneider 1995: 5; Rup-
pert 1995). However, it is unlikely that the war oral histories were entirely
reinvented in each transmission, because the events of the war are linked to
Yup’ik culture history (Whitehead and Schneider 1987: 63–64). The intro-
duction of Christianity, television, scholarly information, or information
from other native peoples may have caused changes in the content or topi-
cal emphases of the war in oral histories (Goody 2000: 40; Mather 1995:
24; Vansina 1985: 156–57). Some of these inuences are more obvious than
others: in one interview a woman said that the Bow and Arrow War was like
when the Indians on TV were shooting each other (Buster 1985).
The ANCSA oral histories are burdened with issues of language inter-
pretation. During interviews, questions posed and answers received often
were ltered through an interpreter. The interpreter’s culture, language
translation abilities, and perception of the interview’s purpose aected the
recorded oral history. A Yup’ik narrator or translator speaking English still
speaks from within a culture context, so even straightforward translation of
oral histories into English can cause misunderstanding, because “intended
meaning, actual meaning, stereotypes, and idiomatic expressions” all may
be confused during the language interpretation process (Cruikshank 1998:
27, 40–41; Morrow 1995: 30; quotation from Vansina 1985: 86). During the
ANCSA interviews, younger Yupiit nearly always acted as interpreters for
the elders. The ANCSA interviews placed the young interpreters in the di-
cult and improper position of questioning their elders, and they had to make
decisions about how to get the information the interviewers wanted with-
out being rude (Fienup-Riordan 1982: 256–60). They sometimes did not
Ethnohistory
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532 Caroline Funk
Table 1. Topical Oral History Reference Chart, by topic and ANCSA tape number
Timing of the War
 VAK 
Allies and Enemies
 ROM 
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK –
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK b
The Eye-Poking
Incident
 ROM 
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK b
 VAK a
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK –
 VAK –
 VAK 
Murdering Son-In-
Law / Seal Hunter
 ROM 
 ROM 
 ROM 
 ROM 
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK –
Misc War Topics
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
War Training
 ROM 
 ROM 
 ROM 
 VAK b
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
Tools of War
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 ALA 
 ALA 
 STM 
Settlement Selection
and Organization
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK b
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK –
 VAK 
The End of the War
Days
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK –
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK 
The Annihilation of
Qavinaq
 ROM 
 ROM 
 ROM 
 ROM 
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK –
Escaping or
Avoiding Raiding
Warriors
 ROM 
 ROM 
 ROM 
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK b
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK –a
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK b
 ALA 
 TUT –
General Raids
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK –
 VAK –
 VAK –
 VAK –
 TUT –
The Hooper Bay
Raid
 ROM 
 VAK –
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK b
Women and Kids in
War
 ROM –
 ROM 
 VAK 
Traveling to and
from Raids
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 VAK 
 ALA 
 ALA b
 ALA 
 TNT 
Ethnohistory
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 533
understand the older generation’s dialect, and more troubling, the young
interpreters were deciding which parts of an elder’s response to translate
based on what they thought would appropriately answer the questions. Full
formal transcription of the ANCSA oral histories may eventually resolve
most of the interpretation issues.
Cultural change was rapid in rural Alaska in the 1970s and 1980s, and
there was little time for local native people to incorporate new social, eco-
nomic, and political circumstances with traditional ways. One side eect of
the new lifeways was a decrease in the younger generation’s interest in the
old oral histories and the traditional practices. This meant that elders had
a small audience for their traditional knowledge. The ANCSA investiga-
tions emerged in this local context, and the ANCSA procedure of record-
ing interviews provided a solution for elders worried about the fate of their
oral traditions (Funk 2005). Some elders viewed the interviews as an oppor-
tunity to store heritage information rather than as simply a recounting of
the use of specic sites. This means that the Triangle ANCSA oral histories
oer a more complete record of Yup’ik knowledge than planned, even if
the knowledge exists outside a clear cultural context. The Bow and Arrow
War Days oral histories are a particularly rich segment of the recorded
interviews.
The Bow and Arrow Wars
The timing, participants, causes, and processes of the wars, and explana-
tions for the cessation of the Bow and Arrow War Days, are all described
in the ANCSA oral histories. The following sections address each of these
topics in turn. The versions of events of the wars recounted here are aggre-
gates compiled from many versions within the ANCSA oral histories. The
oral histories are presented as “free translations”; the Yup’ik language is
translated into American English structure as well as wording, but origi-
nal phrases, sequencing, and repetitions are present (Fienup-Riordan 2007:
xxvii). All of the oral histories included in each recounting in this article
are cited. The information about the War Days is specic to the Triangle
region and remains unpublished to this point. Supplementary and support-
ing information comes from the ethnohistorical texts of the early explorers
in the region and from previously written publications and manuscripts
about politics and war in the Triangle and surrounding area. The combina-
tion of ethno- and oral historical sources was employed to good eect in
a similar, if more substantial, eort by Burch in the Iñupiaq region (Burch
1998, 2005).
Ethnohistory
Published by Duke University Press
534 Caroline Funk
Timing and Duration of the Wars
The timing and cause of the start of the Bow and Arrow War Days remains
unknown in the Yup’ik culture area. Competing hypotheses suggest origins
as far back as a thousand years ago or as recent as the 1700s. The wars were
not fought in living memory of the Yup’ik interviewees, and no one inter-
viewed had parents who participated in the wars. On two occasions families
traced their genealogy to a person who was involved in the processes of the
wars: one elder woman had a grandmother who was abducted during a raid
(Kurtz 1985: 29–30), and an elder man is descended from a woman stolen
by his grandfather’s younger brother during a revenge raid (Friday 1981b,
1984b). These two women could be the same person, since many Triangle
people are related. Edward W. Nelson traveled through the Triangle area in
the 1870s and did not witness any war or hear of any actively operating war
vendettas (Nelson 1983 [1899]). However, during the late nineteenth cen-
tury people remembered the wars and were clearly aware of consequences
such as annihilated villages and suspicion of strangers (Nelson 1983 [1899]:
264–330). Lavrentii Zagoskin traveled near the Triangle area during the
1840s, and he also heard nothing of active violence (Zagoskin 1967). Like
Nelson, Zagoskin had the sense that people were aware of the potential out-
break of hostilities, but none occurred to his knowledge (Zagoskin 1967).
Russians in the area during the 1810s may have met living warriors and wit-
nessed the fresh aftermath of battle (Fienup-Riordan 1990: 155). The 1820s
and 1830s must mark the end of the War Days, but when did they begin?
One strongly supported hypothesis is that the Bow and Arrow Wars
started as a response to Russian interruption of indigenous trade processes
in the 1700s (Frink 2003: 172; Zagoskin 1967). This hypothesis can be
linked to the notion of the “tribal zone,in which nascent colonial inu-
ences have profound and often violent impacts within indigenous cultures
(Ferguson and Whitehead 2000 [1992]). Russian economic and political
interests were moving into the Russian Far East in the early 1700s, and indi-
gene trade processes between Alaskans and Chukotkans were in the process
of modication (Burch 2005). If interruption of established trade patterns
and the presence of a new colonial entity caused war, then the Bow and
Arrow Wars could have started about three centuries ago.
A related hypothesis links the start of war to the migration of a vio-
lent Yup’ik nation through the area. At some point in the past ve hun-
dred years, the Aglurmiut moved through western Alaska after being forced
from their homeland farther to the north and east in the Norton Sound area.
The disruption caused by their occupation of owned territories may have
led to tensions throughout the area that in turn caused the wars (Fienup-
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 535
Riordan 1984, 1990, 1994; Nelson 1983 [1899]; O’Leary n.d.: 4, 34–35; Ray
1975). The Aglurmiut were known for their violence against outsiders, and
they were associated with conict until they settled near Bristol Bay to the
south (Fienup-Riordan 1984, 1994; Nelson 1983 [1899]; O’Leary n.d.: 4–5,
1999; Pratt 1984a, b; Zagoskin 1967) (see g. 3). Their movement may have
been part of a typical process of group ssioning and migration throughout
western Alaska (O’Leary n.d.: 28–35), or perhaps the Aglurmiut movement
resulted from changing economic and political scenarios associated with
Russian presence in Chukotka and Siberia.
According to the second main hypothesis, the Bow and Arrow Wars
may have started a thousand or more years ago. Matt O’Leary suggests that
the War Days were more recent than mythic time but before colonialism
(n.d.: 3–4). The war oral histories are told as qanemciq—that is, they are oral
histories of history or legend—and can be linked to known current land-
scapes and genealogies (Fienup-Riordan 2007: xix–xx; O’Leary n.d.: 2).
Since massive cultural change occurred with the arrival of Thule cultural
practices about a thousand years ago, it is logical to suppose that this could
mark the start of the Bow and Arrow War Days. The past thousand years
have been violent throughout North American indigenous cultures in gen-
eral (Lambert 2002; LeBlanc 1999, among many others). However, scholars
in the Yup’ik region are unwilling to provide a concrete date for the start of
the Bow and Arrow War Days. James Kurtz (1985: 12) and Fienup-Riordan
(1994) suggest that it may not be possible to know unequivocally when
the conict in the Triangle area commenced. O’Leary also suggests that
the intergroup violence was not particular to any time period or signicant
ethnohistorical event but was instead a part of an ongoing process of ssion
and population shifting on the delta, with the Aglurmiut migration just a
recent manifestation of this process (n.d.: 28). Archaeological evidence in
the Triangle region is not yet helpful, only providing verication that some
of the major villages named in the war oral histories were indeed occupied
during the past several hundred years (Frink 2003; O’Leary 2007).
Whenever the precise beginnings, war began for the Triangle Yupiit
deep enough in the past that it is considered a constant way of life in the oral
histories. Occasionally the ANCSA oral histories contain vague hints of a
lifestyle that existed before the wars, but it is dicult to determine whether
the hints are about times before any war or times before the most recent
series of raids and revenge killings. As far as the elders of the 1980s are con-
cerned, war in the Triangle area was a continuous factor in the lives of their
nameable ancestors.
Ethnohistory
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536 Caroline Funk
Opponents and Allies
The exact timing of the start of the Bow and Arrow War Days may be
unknown, but the participants, at least the most recent allies and enemies,
are well known to all in the Triangle area. There were two main areas of con-
ict in the Triangle, each associated with one of the two stated causes of the
Bow and Arrow Wars. Both conicts opposed villagers from the Triangle
area against villagers from riverine settlements (as in Fienup-Riordan 1990:
160). In one area, the Nuvugmiut, Miluqautmiut, or Nenerrlugarmiut, all
people of ancestral Hooper Bay, fought the Pastulirmiut, people of ances-
tral Pastoliq near the Yukon River mouth to the north (Friday and Bunyan
1984; Joe and Beans 1984; Kurtz 1985: 14; O’Leary n.d., 1999) (g. 3). This
conict was instigated by murders perpetrated by a homicidal son-in-law
from the north (O’Leary n.d.: 11; also see below). Farther to the east in
the Triangle, the Qavinarmiut and Qissunamiut, ancestral Chevak villagers,
fought the Kuigpagmiut and Unalirmiut, villagers from an area near present-
day Pilot Station. This conict may have been caused by the eye-poking
incident (Kurtz 1985: 14; O’Leary n.d.: 11; also see below), although some
war oral history versions aggregate all of the northern riverine villages as
allied foes and identify the murdering son-in-law as the cause of the war
(Henry 1981, 1984f; Joe and Beans 1984). Regardless of the cause, ances-
tral Hooper Bay and Chevak villages often allied together on raids to the
north (Friday and Jones 1983). The Asqinurmiut, ancestral Scammon Bay
villagers, rarely fought in battles or raided; instead, from their location near
the boundary zone, they periodically foiled raids by eradicating vulnerable
traveling raiding parties from the north. Raiders from both sides of the con-
ict often crossed Asqinurmiut territory (Henry 1984f; Kurtz 1985: 14). The
area around the Qipn’gayaq (Black) and Kuigpak (Yukon) Rivers may also
have been a boundary zone of heavy travel north and south but little ght-
ing (O’Leary n.d.: 14).
In actual war operations during the most recent war, the two or three
simultaneously extant Magemiut villages of the south central Triangle area
came to each other’s aid when attacked. These include Englullpagmiut,
Hooper Bay, Qissunaq/Qavinaq, and coastal villages since abandoned and
lost (Friday 1984c; Henry 1984f; Hoelscher 1984a, b; Joe and Beans 1984).
Each of the larger villages would call on men from the smaller family vil-
lages tucked throughout the sloughs and rivers for raids and defense,
and these men were compelled to join the raid or defense party (Friday
1984c, d). Kurtz believes that the alliance between Hooper Bay and Qissu-
naq emerged after the destruction of Qavinaq (see below), at least partially
because constant revenge raiding depleted the supply of men (1985: 23–38).
Ethnohistory
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 537
Triangle area alliances seem to have been permanent, although it may
be that only the last permutations of alliances are the versions preserved in
the oral histories. According to Fienup-Riordan, the Triangle area alliances
were extremely conservative, with denitions of allies and enemies staying
the same for generations (1994: 322). There are hints that other alliances
were made between villagers in the Triangle to raid people to the south, and
these explicitly refer to wars prior to the most recent and most remembered
Bow and Arrow War (Aguchak 1984; Akerelrea 1984). During the most
recent war, the area to the south near the Manokinak River was known as
a more peaceful region (Henry 1984f; Smith 1983).
Gender in War
The Bow and Arrow Wars were fought by men, but were not as Fienup-
Riordan states “strictly a male activity” (1990: 150). Lisa Frink suggests
that the Bow and Arrow Wars were related to male prestige or power and
access to goods, which were based on the products of women’s labor (2003:
176). Women were involved in the Bow and Arrow Wars as victims, raid-
ing party caregivers, escape engineers, suppliers of war clothing, and occa-
sionally instigators or tacticians (Frink 2003: 176–78; also see oral histo-
ries below). Men may have planned raids and done the actual ghting, but
women were arguably as important in the warfare process.
Causes of the Wars
Wars among “microscale nations” (Burch 2005) are not completely under-
stood, and many theories attempt to explain war in general and within
smaller indigenous societies. War can be attributed to human nature
(Keeley 1996), resource competition (LeBlanc 1999, 2003, 2006), the
advent of sedentism and the need to protect landscapes (Ferguson 2006), or
the arrival of massive nation states to indigenous systems: the “tribal zone”
war (Ferguson and Whitehead 1992 [2000]). Evaluation of these theories
is too broad a topic for this article; the discussion of the causes of the Bow
and Arrow Wars will focus on those presented in the oral histories and the
locally focused literature.
Competition for resources may be related to the wars, but there is little
research into how resource paucity, ownership, or competition might mani-
fest in Yup’ik cultures. Kurtz suggests that it was control over such coastal
resources as seals that led to the conict, and he supports this notion with
an impression that resources are often mentioned in war oral histories, indi-
cating their high signicance in Yup’ik life and war (1985: 38). Some of the
Triangle oral histories suggest that resources were under stress or access to
Ethnohistory
Published by Duke University Press
538 Caroline Funk
resources was curtailed during the Bow and Arrow War Days. For example,
one states that more people resulted in more deaths: war would happen and
escalate the death rate, but when there were fewer people, there was no war
and less death (Joe and Beans 1984). Were the initial high death rates caused
by resource stress? In a related concept, it is remembered that people were
without food to the point of starvation because it was impossible to hunt in
the ocean during the war times (Henry 1984f). Whether this caused conict
or resulted from conict is not clear, especially since the state of starvation
ultimately led to the nal truce (see below). A tradition of feuding com-
bined with periods of famine may have fostered a positive environment for
conict.
According to Triangle area oral histories, the most recent Bow and
Arrow War started because of the eye-poking incident or because of the
murdering son-in-law, as noted above. These events are reputed to have
occurred at several major ancient villages; exactly where an incident
occurred, and whether it was related to the start of the war, varies accord-
ing to where the story was told in the ethnographic present or according
to the origin village of the storyteller (Fienup-Riordan 1990: 155, 1994:
326; O’Leary n.d.: 8–9). According to Nelson, who heard about it in the
1870s, the eye-poking incident happened at Ungluq, near Russian Mission,
and after the incident the survivors (some claim the losers) split three ways
and moved to Qissunaq, Nunivak, and the Bristol Bay area (Kurtz 1985:
6–7; Nelson 1983 [1899]; O’Leary n.d.: 7). More recent Triangle oral his-
tories claim that the eye-poking incident occurred at a site within their own
region (as mentioned in Fienup-Riordan 1990: 153; also see below). In gen-
eral, interior villages tend to dene the war as starting with the eye-poking
incident while coastal people remember the murdering son-in-law as the
instigator of war. The diusion of Yupiit into many villages and regions,
particularly after the late 1800s, may explain the widespread telling of the
eye-poking origin story. The murdering son-in-law incident is more geo-
graphically precise and the details of the story typically match in most oral
histories.
The Eye-Poking Incident. The eye-poking incident is regarded either as the
cause of a Bow and Arrow War, because opposing families in the conict
separated and became long-term enemies (Bunyan 1984), or as an isolated
tragedy in which all died (Friday and Jones 1983; Nayamin 1983). The inci-
dent is rumored to have occurred at Kapuutllermiut, with only one telling
placing the events at Englullugpagmiut, another large, old village in the
Triangle region (Bunyan 1984). It seems likely that the events did occur at a
site named Kapuutllermiut; however, there are two sites of this name in the
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 539
east and northwestern areas of the Triangle (Friday 1983a, e). Only one, to
the east, also has a nearby companion site with the same name as the second
site in the story. Therefore, it was likely in the east that the events described
here occurred:
Kapuutllermiut: the whole site is a grave. People were wrapped in grass
mats and laid on the ground. They left them where they died, some of
them in their own homes, some outside. The whole village was a ceme-
tery. They weren’t burned. They were just left there.
One time in Kapuutllermiut a man was working on a qayaq in
the men’s house. Another man was helping him. There were two boys
playing darts. One boy threw his dart toward the boy whose father
was working on a qayaq and accidentally popped his eye out. The man
working on the qayaq got up and examined his son’s eye. The father of
the other boy said to pop out just one of his son’s eyes so that the two
boys will be the same. Even though he was told that, the man popped
out both of the boy’s eyes. The man who advised that the man pop out
one eye out got mad when the other man poked both eyes out and he
started poking. Each man’s relatives got up and they started poking
each another. Even the occupants of the houses took sides and fought.
Soon the whole village was ghting.
There was a camp nearby, Aurrvigmiut, where a man and his
family resided. Earlier the man’s wife told him not to go to the village
but he went to the village for something and had taken part in the ght.
The weather was clear that day. The woman came out of her sodhouse
and saw a mist above the village. She went back in her sodhouse and
told the children something was wrong with the village. The mist was
steam from the blood of all the people.
A man was seen crawling away. He may have been the only one
left. He had a big hole in his stomach. This man crawled away with his
intestines hanging out. His intestines would come out but when they
got too long, the man would put them back in his stomach and keep
crawling.
The woman at the nearby camp saw a man approaching but he
wasn’t standing up. He was crawling. She kept going out to look now
and again. She didn’t mind the man, thinking it was her husband
approaching. When he got closer she saw he was not wearing the parka
of her husband and that it was a dierent man. She went in her sod-
house, and gave her children dried salmon roe. These eggs, they stick
on the teeth when chewed. They get stuck on the teeth and the children
had to pull them out, that’s what kept them quiet. The woman gured
Ethnohistory
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540 Caroline Funk
that the children would still be chewing while the man gets to their
sodhouse. She did this so the children wouldn’t make noise.
While the children were eating, the man arrived at the sodhouse
and the woman was peeking out and when the man became visible in
the entrance, she placed her cutting board over the entrance and sat on
it. The children were very quiet as they chewed the dried sh eggs. She
could hear the man hitting the blocked entrance with his knife. He was
poking the board.
When the man outside became quiet, she went outside and fol-
lowed the trail of blood outside and found the dead man who had
been dragging his intestines. The woman was ready to ght when she
walked over to the man, knowing he was very weak but when she took
a close look, the man was already dead. The man had come to kill the
lady but never made it. (Bunyan 1984; Friday 1981b, 1983a, c, 1984d;
Friday and Jones 1983; Friday et al. 1983; George 1983; Henry 1981,
1984e; Hoelscher and Hoelscher 1983; Nayamin 1983)
The Murdering Son-in-Law. The story of the murdering son-in-law is more
commonly accepted by Yupiit from the Triangle as the start of the most
recent Bow and Arrow War. The events of the story take place either in Old
Hooper Bay (as in this version) or in one of the nearby antecedent villages.
There is little variation in the events of the story, and both Kilbuck and
Nelson heard oral histories related to the murdering son-in-law in the late
1800s (Nelson 1983 [1899]; O’Leary n.d.: 7). There is a long cycle of Bow
and Arrow War Days oral histories that include the start of the war, the full
battle at Hooper Bay, and the attack on Qavinaq, as well as lookout loca-
tions, skirmishes, foiled raids from the north, and the end of the war. The
story of the murdering son-in-law is the rst portion of the cycle:
The war started because a man from upriver was killing hunters for
their catch. A man from Pastoliq met a Hooper Bay lady and settled in
Hooper Bay. During seal hunting the person who went with him never
came back.
One spring the people were hunting seal. You can t almost the
whole seal in the qayaq. One man didn’t catch any seal. He put a blade
on his paddle. He would sharpen his oar as sharp as a blade. When
others had a seal, he would go over to them and rip the bottom of the
qayaq. He let the people drown and claimed the seal.
At one time he had a partner, and he was going out seal hunting.
That partner was cautious about going out with him. They were going
back to where they left the shore and his partner kept his distance from
him. Every time they’d come together, he’d move away. At one point
Ethnohistory
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 541
when they were close enough the guy from the North slid his paddle
underneath his partner’s qayaq. When he tried that, the partner found
out that the son-in-law had a cutting edge on the tip of his paddle.
Once a seal is in a qayaq its hair is marked with the impressions
of the qayaq ribs. This guy was always coming home with a big seal.
They started looking at his catch. When they looked at the hair on the
seal this man brought in, they knew. It had two dierent qayaq marks.
They knew.
The Hooper Bayers kept quiet. Some people wanted to kill him
quietly. Instead, they waited until early spring when he was making
a new qayaq. The man made his frame and got the seal skin and was
ready to put it on. People worked together to get it on. One old man
told the younger men to help put the seal skin covering on. The rst
time they put the skin on all the way, pushing the seal skin into a tight
t around the frame. On second stretch of the skin, the frame of the
qayaq was cracking. The third time, that’s when they demolished the
qayaq. The guy was suspecting something. The third time they just
rolled the whole qayaq up and over. He just walked out. He left. He
talked to his wife and said the people wouldn’t let him live, so he got
his hunting gear and left the village to go up the Yukon.
The Pastoliq man ran north, probably home. The man went back
to his home village and told a dierent story. He said the others were
coming for war. He told the people the area was rich in skins to start
the war. When they heard this, the Yukoners tried to be rst for war.
The rst and worst of the attacks was on Qavinaq. (Akerelrea 1981;
Amukon 1984; Bell 1984; Bunyan 1984; Friday 1981a, 1983e; Friday
and Jones 1983; Henry 1984a, d; Kaganak 1984; Smith 1981)
Training for War
The Bow and Arrow Wars involved physically demanding processes, requir-
ing specialized training in tasks that are not typical even for men who make
a living hunting with tools that are also used for war (Fienup-Riordan 1990:
155–56). Accordingly, the Triangle area oral histories include information
about the exercises and other special preparations that men made for war.
Many of the exercises appear in winter festivals as “friendly” competition.
This notion of military tness maintained through gaming and competition
is common in Alaska (Burch 2005; Fienup-Riordan 1994). In addition to
physical preparedness, younger males learned proper techniques for war-
ring by listening to the tales of older men (Burch 1974: 5).
General training displayed in gaming competitions tended to focus
on feats of strength, speed, endurance, or agility (Fienup-Riordan 1990:
Ethnohistory
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542 Caroline Funk
155–56, 1994: 328; Friday 1981b). Stick jumping was a contest held at the
end of the winter festivals (like most of the competitions), and this competi-
tion displayed the ability of warriors to leap enemy arrows (Fienup-Riordan
1990: 156, 1994: 328; Nayamin 1981). Other contests demonstrated a man’s
ability to avoid arrows through dodging or deecting with stas (Fienup-
Riordan 1990: 155–56, 1994: 328). The nger-pulling endurance test and
running races were typical gaming contests as well (Fienup-Riordan 1994:
328; Nayamin 1981).
Physical prowess was essential to survival in the Bow and Arrow War
Days, and to ensure the survival of their people, Triangle men and women
started training boys to be fast and strong as young as possible, even before
birth (see below; Fienup-Riordan 1990: 155, 1994: 328). In addition to
physical exercises, the training included special acts, such as rubbing dirty
hands on their stomachs to protect their bodies from arrows or sickness, or
dietary restrictions to maintain physical and mental lightness (as described
regarding more southern Yup’ik warriors in Fienup-Riordan 1990: 155,
1994: 328). Some young men were brought up to be violent in addition to
being physically capable (Friday 1981a). These men were reputed to be so
powerful that arrows could not hit them, and they often were in at least
nominal charge of the warriors of a village (Friday 1981a).
Training at Englullugpagmiut. Englullugpagmiut was one of the major vil-
lages of the Triangle Bow and Arrow War Days, and it gures in several of
the war oral histories. The site is on three very large, steep mounds about
ten meters high. This height gave the site a reputation as invulnerable in
times of war, because occupants could see for long distances over the tundra
and because limited stream access made it nearly impossible to approach
(Friday 1983e; Friday and Bunyan 1984; Pingayak 1984). The site eventually
was burned while the villagers were not present, but no attacks were ever
perpetrated on this large, central village while it was occupied (Hoelscher
and Hoelscher 1983). One of the more common oral histories about Eng-
lullugpagmiut is a story about a young boy trained to be a warrior even
from the womb:
Englullugpagmiut was a big mound and even had handholds to get up
the steepest part. They used to have endurance games and when they
ran out of games to play they would run up the side of the mound. They
slid back down before they could get to the top.
There is a story about one woman living at Englullugpagmiut who
was pregnant. The women usually knew if they were going to have a
boy or girl when they were pregnant. She knew she would have a boy
and vowed to raise her son to run up the side of the largest mound.
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 543
When the woman was pregnant, she decided that her son will be
able to climb the mound. She took steps to ensure that her boy could
do it.
The lady took some feathers and placed one in plain water and
one in seal oil. The one in water oated and the one in seal oil got
soaked and sank. She started boiling the fats o her food and com-
pletely abstained from seal oil. She drank only a little bit of water when
she drank.
The boy was born and grew up light. He trained to run up the
mound with no hands. When he could run up the north side of the
mound, his grandfather asked the people to have his grandson join
the war party. They called that boy Mayurtekiuraaneng Neglirnerem,
“the one who was raised to be the climber of the north side.
The boy was used in war. He was fast and light and could dodge
arrows. (Friday 1983a, e; T. Moses 1983)
Raids
The Bow and Arrow Wars in the Triangle area were both defensive, in that
attacks were made on villages and camps within the region, and aggres-
sively oensive, since local people regularly left their region to attack inland
Yupiit (Kurtz 1985: 5; Nelson 1983 [1899]; Zagoskin 1967; also see the oral
histories referenced below). The Triangle warfare followed the general rules
of Alaskan warfare, employing tactics such as sneak raids, ambush, the
occasional battle, total annihilation of the enemy when possible, hostage
exchanges for truce, lookout and warning systems, and spying for intel-
ligence (Fienup-Riordan 1990: 157–59, 1994: 329; Kurtz 1985: 11; Smith
1981; and Burch 2005 provide thorough descriptions of these processes in
Arctic war). The main goal, which supported the desires of surprising the
enemy and winning, was that a successful raiding party should include more
members than the village to be attacked (as described in Fienup-Riordan
1994: 330 for Yup’ik outside of the Triangle area). This is near universal wis-
dom throughout the Arctic (Burch 1974: 3–4).
Accounts of raids are common in the Triangle oral histories. In these
accounts, enemies are often identied by their distinctive rabbit fur parkas;
locals wear bird skin parkas, and even in the dark the dierence is discern-
able (Joe and Beans 1984). It was necessary to be vigilant to such daily
details, as Yukoners were not always aiming to attack a specic target that
was cognizant of the threat. Instead, they often attacked the rst village
encountered, particularly if the occupants were distracted by a feast or fes-
tival (Friday 1981a). Some of the raid oral histories are incomplete, provid-
ing only the information that a camp or village was “wiped out” during the
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544 Caroline Funk
Bow and Arrow War Days. In one such attack, the entire population was
murdered, beat to death with qayaq paddles, resulting in a red coloration
in the land and water that exists to this day (James, Tommy, and Charlie
1983). This particular story has a sense of mythic time, but it does not stand
alone as a description of brutal, annihilation-oriented raiding techniques.
Another village, Kaumillillermiut, experienced a catastrophic raid:
Here, a woman saw a suspicious number of new rocks in an area
slightly above the village. She went to the men’s house to tell the village
men what she saw and was chastised for “speaking with authority.”
Knowing that the enemies were present, she sent her husband away,
gathered her sons, and ran. The remaining villagers were clubbed to
death, and looking back, the woman saw the village surrounded by
ames. (J. Charlie 1984; James, Tommy, and Charlie 1983)
Triangle area raiding parties consisted of a group of men and at least
one woman (Aloralrea 1981; Friday 1984d). Women were active members
of the raiding party: they cooked, maintained equipment, and acted as keen
lookouts for the presence of enemies. However, women were not consid-
ered warriors by Yupiit and were not usually killed in battle; if captured,
women may have been questioned about the raiding party (Friday 1984d;
Kurtz 1985: 17). The form of questioning is unknown and probably varied
according to the level of violence in each raiding encounter or the presence
of relatives of the woman in the enemy party.
On rare occasions, a raiding party was identied prior to attack and
removed before it became a threat. Near the Askinuk Mountains north of
Scammon Bay a party of Yukoners traveling by qayaq was sighted by Tri-
angle Yupiit from a vantage point high in the mountains (Bunyan 1984).
The Yukoners were sleeping and the Triangle Yupiit sneaked to a rocky area
above their resting place (Henry 1984a; Sundown and Amukon 1983). The
Triangle Yupiit sent an avalanche of rocks down onto the Yukoners, killing
all but one man (Aguchak and Amukon 1983; Bunyan 1984; Henry 1984a;
Sundown and Amukon 1983; Tunutmoak 1984). The Yukoner bodies were
shoved into a nearby lake, which turned bloody from the sheer number
of dead men (Aguchak and Amukon 1983; Henry 1984a). The practice of
burying or otherwise disposing of the dead enemies was not typical (Smith
1981), although if there were sucient numbers they were placed in a lake
or sometimes piled together and buried under piles of logs (Friday 1984b).
If a raider died along the journey to or from an attack, this person was
occasionally interred even if still within enemy territory (Hoelscher and
Hoelscher 1983).
Oral histories from men and women living in the Yukon Yup’ik ter-
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 545
ritory tell of Triangle Yupik raids to the north. These oral histories center
on the theme of foiled enemies, and one particular oral history tells of a
Yukoner victory over Triangle Yupik without a ght:
A man was thirsty in the night. He got up to get a drink in the river and
heard footsteps. He told the other men in the men’s house. They didn’t
believe him. The enemy warriors blocked the entrances to the men’s
house and threw burning wood in the hole in the roof. The men in the
men’s house were stumbling around in the dark and one man tripped.
He tripped over the honey bucket and it got stuck on his head. All of
the men laughed at him. Hearing the laughing, the enemy ed, think-
ing the laughter meant that the men were going to escape to ght. (Joe
and Beans 1984)
One of the more complete Triangle raids, in which the allies were the
victims of attack, is the Hooper Bay incident
Pastoliq warriors would qayaq to the hills near Hooper Bay. In the
early evening at the time of year when it gets dark early, they would go
check things out.
People from Qissunaq went to Hooper Bay for a potlatch in the
fall, when the evenings would get dark. Some boys were playing in the
dark, and one noticed that the clothing of three boys was dierent.
When the people from Qissunaq went home, the Yukon people
hiding behind the village attacked. When they thought the people in
the village were sleeping, they came closer to one of the men’s houses.
They blocked the entrance and made a small hole in the ceiling to
smoke the people inside. They thought the smoke would make them
suocate. They shot arrows at the other entrances.
But the men in the men’s house had bows and arrows because
they were cautious during the Bow and Arrow War Days. They shot
the Yukon people on the roof.
The Yukon warriors held the Hooper Bay warriors for three days
without food.
An old woman came into the men’s house one morning and told
the men that they were dead, that they were going to starve. She told
them to leave in the morning with the bright sun, so the enemy would
be distracted. The next day when the sun rose the old woman came to
the men’s house to tell the men to go ahead and give themselves to the
enemy since they were dead anyway.
An old man said he would go rst. A left handed man shot out the
door, making a way out. The other men went out each time an arrow
was shot and ran toward the bright sun, blocking the arrows with their
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546 Caroline Funk
sticks. A child was shot with an arrow right in his mouth. The father of
that child went out, and he had so many arrows in him that he didn’t
even touch the ground when he fell.
The men got out, and attacked when they were in front of the
rising sun. They overpowered the enemies, who were dazzled by the
sun.
An old woman yelled that the Pastoliq warriors were running
away. When the Yukon warriors heard this, they ed.
The Hooper Bay warriors killed the enemies down by the creek.
One man chased two of the enemies along the creek. He killed one and
told the other not to think he escaped, but to tell people where he came
from and what happened.
The people from Hooper Bay lined up all the men who were killed.
They had the strongest man throw a harpoon across the line of people,
but it didn’t go beyond them because there were so many people dead.
They cut o every penis and put them in seal skin pokes and lled one
and two-thirds seal skins. There was one man who didn’t ght but ate
sh from one of the caches while everyone else was ghting. He was
killed by the women, who put on pants and sat on his face. The dead
were placed in a lake, which caused it to overow. (Bell 1984; Henry
1981, 1984d, f; Kaganak 1984)
Village Burnings
Village burnings are chronicled for the entire area, and burning was prob-
ably a goal of any raiding party. Burning could be a signicant element of
the surprise attack, an ecient process for ensuring annihilation, or the
nal act of a successful raid, guaranteeing that survivors would have di-
cult seasons ahead after their move to a new location (Friday and Paniyak
1983; Nash 1984; M. Simon 1983; and see the section on Qavinaq, below).
During raids, enemies sneaked up to villages, blocked house entrances, lit
res, and picked o villagers eeing the ames (see below; Fienup-Riordan
1994: 330). Empty villages were burned opportunistically (as in the Eng-
lullugpagmiut case, above), leaving families without homes and without
the subsistence resources and subsistence acquisition tools stored in villages
while they were elsewhere in the seasonal migration.
Avoided Confrontation and Escape
The theme of avoided confrontation is more common in the Yup’ik oral his-
tories than that of successful raiding. Avoidance took three forms: hiding,
disguise, or running. Occasionally men and women deceived raiders through
independent action while alone, but escape was more commonly engineered
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 547
by a wife, mother, or grandmother to protect a husband, son, or grandson.
In many of these oral histories, a family was alone in a small camp or village
when enemies made their approach (Friday 1983f, 1984c; Friday and Pani-
yak 1983; Henry 1984f; Joe and Beans 1984; Napoleon 1984; Smith 1984;
Sundown 1984; all include variations on the escape theme described next).
The woman noticed the enemy arrival and began a preplanned sequence
of actions designed to save the man. The most commonly told oral his-
tory, recounted for multiple sites and with some variation in detail, begins
with a woman making akutaq in the sodhouse. She was usually the wife,
and while she was making akutaq the husband was outside the house sh-
ing or doing some work, or he was in the house with her. While mix-
ing the akutaq, the woman saw reected in the oily mixture enemy men
peering through the smoke hole. She acted as though she saw nothing and,
depending on the oral history variant, she called the man inside and fed him
akutaq, or took snowshoes to him outside, which he then used to run. If the
man was inside, after feeding him the wife sent him into an escape tunnel
she had secretly dug or dressed him in her coat. The man then ran while the
wife taunted the enemy or cut herself on the feet or thighs to mimic men-
struation and thereby avoid rape. The man sometimes got away because
he had the proper shorter and smaller snowshoes for running on the local
snowscape, but he vomited the akutaq as he ran. The distinctive marks on
his coat became a family marker into the present day.
If the man survived, he warned the people of a nearby village that the
enemies were close. This village changes to whichever of the large villages
was closest to the small site spoken of in the oral history. Many variants
describe the man dying—freezing to death because he opened his coat for
ventilation as he ran, but opened the windward side and exposed himself to
extreme conditions. Only one variant attributes the escape tunnel and plan
to the man, and like the male-dominated raiding story, this variant refers to
a site north of the Triangle area (Joe and Beans 1984).
A similarly themed set of oral histories of escape includes a young man
and his grandmother (D. Simon 1981) or parents (T. Moses 1983). In one
version, the young man dressed as a woman when warriors arrived and
pretended to squat to urinate like a woman, outside in view of the enemy
(Simon 1981). According to the oral history, this was an eective avoidance
technique because the warriors did not attack women and some young girls.
The young man then put on snowshoes and ran to safety. Other versions
have the sodhouse surrounded by enemies, and the grandmother or parents
outtted the boy or young man to run away with special short snowshoes
for rough snow (Friday and Paniyak 1983; Hoelscher 1984a; Hoelscher
and Hoelscher 1983; T. Moses 1983). As he ran away, the grandmother or
Ethnohistory
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548 Caroline Funk
parents taunted the Yukon warriors, who could not catch the young man
because they had long snowshoes ill suited to the local conditions. In some
versions the boy froze during his escape, and in others he made it to the
nearest large village.
Occasionally a Triangle man escaped enemy warriors by simply run-
ning away. In one oral history, a man out hunting saw the enemy and escaped
by swimming across a river while holding his bow above the water (Friday
1981a, 1983f). Another man was shing when the enemy surprised him. He
ran into willows near the water and hid in a cave that had two entrances or
was in some way magically infused, and the man emerged somewhere else
in safety (Napoleon 1984).
Hiding was also used to avoid confrontation. Men working alone with
their sh traps would crouch low in the underbrush to avoid detection when
enemies were sighted (Friday 1983b, 1984a). This was usually successful.
In one instance a man who saw warriors coming froze in position; the war-
riors saw him but passed by without harming him, perhaps because he was
a person of note (Evan 1984b). One oral history tells of a woman who dug
a hiding hole in her sodhouse, in which she hid her husband when Yukon
warriors came through (Aloralrea 1981). Most of the hiding incidents are
individual; one man hides from many warriors. In a story from slightly
north of the Triangle area, an entire village population hides from enemies
in a hole on a hill across from their village (A. Charlie 1985) or hides within
a dirt hill built to provide a view of the surrounding landscape (Paul 1985).
Another oral history describes a general area as a place for “hiding out”
during the Bow and Arrow War (Sundown 1984).
Underground escape tunnels were an alternative to openly running
away, hiding, or enduring the smoke and re of a raid. They were semi- to
entirely subterranean crawl spaces that linked dwellings to provide a secret
exit far from the house and were present in only a few of the older, larger
villages (Bell 1984; Fienup-Riordan 1994: 330; Nayamin 1983). One set of
escape tunnels is found at the site of Qavinaq, where the tunnels are visible
on the surface of the site as indented linear features (Frink 2003: 145–50).
Tunnels are present between house pit features, and a particularly long tun-
nel leads from the men’s house to the perimeter of the site (ibid.). Frink
suggests that the tunnels served many social purposes aside from escape
but doubts they were built outside the war context (2003: 176). One elder
speculates that the tunnels were invented during the war, explaining why
not all villages had escape tunnels (Friday 1984b).
Raiding was a deadly serious endeavor in the Triangle, and the few
successful attacks resonate in the oral histories of the area. Oral histories
of avoided conict describe a greater number and variety of incidents. This
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 549
suggests that while planning and experiencing a raid were signicant ele-
ments of life in the area, they were episodic rather than endemic. In con-
trast, being ready to escape or hide from attack was a constant require-
ment (Smith 1981). Children were raised to be quiet in the evenings to avoid
detection from enemies (George 1983). Camps and villages were near food,
in hidden areas, on defensible landforms, or situated to provide a good view
of approaching enemies (Chayalkum 1983; Friday 1983b, c, 1984d, e; Fri-
day and Paniyak 1983; Fienup-Riordan 1994: 330; Kurtz 1985: 9; G. Moses
1983; T. Moses 1983; Napoleon 1984). Special lookout sites and commu-
nication networks were maintained to warn of enemy approach (Joe and
Beans 1984). Preparedness for confrontation may have been more inuen-
tial to daily decision making than conict itself.
Traveling to and from Raids
Raids, attacks, battles, or any type of war violence could occur in any sea-
son, but the violence tended to occur in the winter and the summer when
traveling throughout the landscape was physically possible (this is also
observed for regions to the south in Fienup-Riordan 1990: 157, 1994: 329).
Dog teams and sleds were used for travel in winter and qayaqs in summer
(Joe and Beans 1984). The qayaqs were used to get as close as possible to the
area to be attacked, but the warriors had certain places where they would
leave their qayaqs before continuing on foot (Henry 1984b). There is no
mention of leaving dog teams, so perhaps in winter access to raiding sites
was logistically simpler.
Travel routes are often described in terms of river systems in the oral
histories: the Kashunuk, Qiivircaraq, Black, Manumik, and Pellavik rivers
were commonly used (Aguchak 1985; Aguchak and Sundown 1985; Evan
1984a; Henry 1984b, f). River access points along the Kashunuk River were
watched by Yukoners vulnerable to attack (Evan 1984a), and Yukon war-
riors got lost going home on the Pellavik River (Henry 1984b). Portages
used by warriors are also named (Evan 1984b; Henry 1984f). Similarly,
land trails used in winter with dog teams and for pedestrian travel in sum-
mer are well documented in the oral histories (Aguchak 1986; Nash 1984;
Tunutmoak 1984; Yupanik and Yupanik 1985). Yukon warriors tended to
come through two passes in the Askinuk Mountains, sometimes carrying
their qayaqs (Tunutmoak 1984). One pass near Cape Romanzof along the
coast was used by both Hooper Bay and Pastoliq warriors (Aguchak 1986).
Though the warrior routes were well known, even to the point that typi-
cally used stopover points can be named (Evan 1984b; Henry 1984f; Simon
1984), the ideal was that warriors would use the least expected route to get
to enemy territory (Nash 1984).
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550 Caroline Funk
For the area to the north, Burch describes raids as occurring between
nations distant from one another (Burch 2005). Here, in the Triangle area,
the raiding process seems to have occurred between neighboring nations.
Travel to and from raids was fairly short most of the time, although longer
distances were sometimes traveled to attack villages as far as modern day
St. Michael (see g. 1) (Kurtz 1985: 6; Nelson 1983 [1899]).
Lines of Battle
Organized battles were not the norm in the Yup’ik Bow and Arrow War
Days. They occurred only when a sneak attack or raid was detected in time
to meet the enemy outside the village. There are few oral histories about
battles in the Triangle area, and all center on the events surrounding or sub-
sequent to the Qavinaq massacre. If a battle did occur, the process was
simple. Before beginning the actual conict phase of an encounter, warriors
from each side lined up in facing parallel lines (see the section on Qavinaq,
below; Fienup-Riordan 1990: 158, 1994: 330–31; Kurtz 1985: 17). From this
position they might gesture, shout insults, talk about past famous warriors,
or, nally, attack each other with bows and arrows (Friday 1984d; Kurtz
1985: 17). During the attack the lines might come closer together, at which
point the warriors would engage in hand-to-hand ghting, or they might
run away (see below; Fienup-Riordan 1990: 158, 1994: 331). Water-based
qayaq battles were sometimes fought, but these involved chasing and shoot-
ing at a eeing enemy rather than a standing one (Paniyak and Aloralrea
1981).
Acts of War against Men, Women, and Children
Triangle oral histories do not dwell on specic acts of violence against
women, men, and children. Rape, homicide, hostage taking, and mutilation
are described euphemistically or in the abstract or are embedded within
larger stories. Kurtz (1985) and Fienup-Riordan (1990, 1994) have specic
information about acts of war, and it is possible that their private inter-
views included frank discussions about such sensitive topics that were not
recorded during the ANCSA investigations.
Women and young girls were not the focus of violence during raids,
but oral histories include exceptions, particularly if the purpose of a raid
was total annihilation (see the section on Qavinaq, below). In these cases,
women and children were killed during the burning of sodhouses (Kurtz
1985: 17). Lessons about how to avoid rape during an attack are men-
tioned, suggesting that even if the cultural ethos called for nonviolence
toward women, rape was a danger. This suggests that local denitions of
“harm” and “violence” toward women are embedded in the oral histories:
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 551
rape may not have been considered all that harmful from the male perspec-
tive. Women avoided rape by mimicking menstruation, because menstrual
blood was anathema to Yup’ik hunters (Fienup-Riordan 1994). They would
cut their legs or feet, or soak their clothing in seal blood (Friday 1983g;
Napoleon 1984; Smith 1984). Sometimes young women were abducted
(Friday 1981b; Joe and Beans 1984). The oral histories do not describe what
happens to the abducted women; however, one man claims descent from a
woman who was brought home by his grandfather’s younger brother (Fri-
day 1981b). Others suggest that the abducted women typically became
wives or slaves who never returned to their home villages (Fienup-Riordan
1990159, 1994: 331; Frink 2003: 179; Smith 1981).
Men were killed in raids and battles, or more rarely were taken hostage.
The ideal situation left at least one man alive and free to tell others what
occurred (see the extract on the Hooper Bay raid, above; Fienup-Riordan
1990: 158; Friday 1984d; Kurtz 1985: 17). Captured men were held for a
year or more before release, and sometimes these captured men served as
warriors left alive to tell the tales of loss and annihilation (Frink 2003: 179;
Smith 1981). Young boys were killed or abducted, a logical process given
that a win or loss in the Yup’ik raids was very much related to the number
of warriors present on either side (Fienup-Riordan 1994: 331). Abducted
young males were adopted into the previously enemy community and raised
as warriors for the enemy side. This was not always a successful process;
there are oral histories of boys who grew into vengeful men who retaliated
against their adoptive village (Frink 2003: 179; also see the section on the
end of the Bow and Arrow Wars, below).
Men and boys were sometimes mutilated to cause death or after death.
Young men were sometimes killed by quartering and stretching (see the sec-
tion on Qavinaq, below). Heads and genitals of vanquished foes were occa-
sionally removed to be sure that the spirit did not re-enter and reanimate the
corpse (Fienup-Riordan 1990: 158, 1994: 331), as in the Hooper Bay raid
described above.
Tools of War
Yup’ik tools of war include physical weapons and specially prepared spirit
power. Like other Yup’ik and Iñupiaq nations to the south and north, Tri-
angle area weapons consisted of bows and arrows, clubs, and spears (Burch
2005; Fienup-Riordan 1990: 156, 1994: 329). These were the tools used
for hunting, but they were modied to be more eective against humans
(Fienup-Riordan 1994: 329). Fienup-Riordan describes a class of weapons,
the anguyacuutet, that were specically for oensive use against humans:
specially shaped arrow points that enhanced the size and severity of wounds,
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552 Caroline Funk
walrus skin shields, shell armor, sti helmets, specially prepared boot
liners, and loose parkas of skin or gut (1990: 156, 1994: 329). Three of these
are mentioned in the Triangle area oral histories: specially prepared arrow
points, thick outer garments, and magically prepared grass boot liners.
Arrow and spear points were crafted by the Triangle villagers of a slate
found in only two areas in the extreme northern edge of the Triangle area:
near Kusilvak Mountain and in the Askinuk Mountains (Aguchak 1985;
Friday 1984f; Henry 1984a, c, f; Kurtz 1985: 14; Sundown 1985). Collect-
ing the slate was potentially dangerous as Yukoner Yupiit also acquired slate
in the areas and occasionally the Triangle area men had to hide from ene-
mies (Friday 1984f; Kurtz 1985: 14; Uttereyuk 1985). The slate that was
to become arrow or spear points, umigaqs or umiq, was particularly thin,
and pieces were collected directly from the surface (Henry 1984f; Sundown
1985). The pieces were ground to points with sharp edges (Aguchak 1985;
Henry 1984f; Uttereyuk 1985). The points were hafted into an arrow or
spear shaft by splitting the end of the shaft and wedging the point in place
(Friday 1984g). The points were left untied so that they remained in the
body after the shaft was removed (Friday 1984f, g; Uttereyuk 1985). The
small triangular tips were intended to break o and remain in the body even
if the main part of the point was extracted (Aguchak 1985; Friday 1984f).
These arrow and spear points are discussed specically in the context of
the Bow and Arrow War Days, but one oral history mentions that slate for
women’s knives was collected as well (Friday 1984f). This suggests that the
mountains were the source for all slate raw materials and not just those spe-
cic to war materiel.
Clubs are described as weapons in one annihilation raid oral history
(Charlie 1984; also see above). No other mention is made of the use of clubs
in war, but they were a regular part of the hunter’s toolkit (Nelson 1983
[1899]: 79). A club pictured in Nelson is carved of deer horn, about 32 cm
long with an 8-cm club head (ibid.). The handle or shaft is less than 4 cm
wide with a leather strap through a hole in the base. The small size of the
club means that it would have been useful only in close proximity to the
target. Annihilation or hand-to-hand battle contexts may have called for
use of clubs. Qayaq paddles are another mundane tool used periodically
as a weapon. As described above, the murdering son-in-law innovatively
sharpened his qayaq paddle to slice into others’ qayaqs. Another oral his-
tory describes a raid in which the entire community was beat to death with
qayaq paddles (James, Tommy, and Charlie 1983).
Magic is a subtler weapon, employed in advance of battle. The use
of magic is more commonly mentioned in more northern contexts: Inu-
piat used shamanic rituals prior to the departures of raiding parties (Burch
2005). In the Triangle area, magic in war contexts is mentioned only in the
Ethnohistory
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 553
Qavinaq cycle, and then it is employed by Yukoners to weaken a Triangle
hero (see the section on Qavinaq, below).
Hostage Exchange and Formalized Truces
The Bow and Arrow Wars continuously aected Triangle area life for gen-
erations, perhaps for a thousand years or more. The landscape does not
permit neglect of subsistence activities even in times of threat, and so a
technique developed to ensure adequate food supplies. Hostages were peri-
odically exchanged to create a time of safety for doing subsistence. This
period of hostage peace was called ilaliyaq (Fienup-Riordan 1994: 329; Fri-
day 1983e; Kurtz 1985: 17), and during such a period a man lived in the
village of his enemies. All people in the opposing regions were safe during
subsistence activities while hostages were living in enemy home territories
(Kurtz 1985: 17). Raids, sneak attacks, or other overt acts of hostility were
forbidden. However, the end of ilaliyaq was marked by increased tensions
between the groups (Friday 1983e). One oral history indicates that periods
of truce were called for subsistence activities and does not specify hostage
exchange (Friday 1981a). This may mean that hostage exchange was not a
necessary component of temporary truces.
Heroes or Named Warriors of Note
Famous warriors are named in war oral histories throughout western
Alaska. According to some Triangle oral histories, the act of killing a man
in a raid or battle was more signicant than a hunter taking an animal (Fri-
day and Jones 1983), suggesting similar degrees of spiritual signicance and
high reputation. In Yup’ik territory, as in the Iñupiaq area to the north,
renowned warriors in residence may have prevented attacks by enemy raid-
ing parties (Burch 1974), and certainly the location and names of famous
warriors are mentioned in the oral histories (Henry 1984b). In the region
south of the Triangle, Yup’ik warriors were also marked with facial tattoos
so that in raid or battle context the presence of fearsome men was easily
noted (Fienup-Riordan 1990: 159–60, 1994: 331–32). There is no mention
of such marking in the Triangle area war oral histories. Even if not speci-
cally named or marked, some men were classied as anguyaqssuutet (the
instruments of war) if they survived many battles to become experienced
war leaders (Friday 1984d; Kurtz 1985: 37). Mighty warriors of the Triangle
area Bow and Arrow War Days are chronicled in the Qavinaq oral history,
below.
The Annihilation of Qavinaq
The oral history of the battle and massacre at the site of Qavinaq opens the
cycle of events culminating in the raid of Hooper Bay (see above) and the
Ethnohistory
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554 Caroline Funk
subsequent end of the war (see below). This oral history includes many of
the elements of war described thus far: hostage and truce, alliance, mutila-
tion, abduction, massacre, heroes, magic, escape, and battle.
Qavinaq village was poorly located for defense, suggesting that it
was located prior to the start of this last portion of the Bow and Arrow
War Days. It was the closest village to the Yukoner territory just up the
Kashunuk River (Kurtz 1985: 14). People from the descendant village of
Chevak prefer that archaeologists or others do not disturb the site. This oral
history still upsets local villagers; it is one of the bloodiest of the Triangle
area war:
Before the Yukon warriors burned the village of Qavinaq, the
Yukoners sent one of their warriors to ilaliyaq in Qavinaq. Ilaliyaq was
when the people of the man who was sent away to ilaliyaq hunted freely
without having to worry about the enemy. While the man was away,
the villagers tried to gather food without worrying about attacks. The
people who received the man could not go on an attack raid as long as
the man was in their village even though they really wanted to.
The Yukon warriors had asked the warrior they sent to Qavinaq
to stay with their war leader called Qillerkavialuk. The Yukon war-
rior spent all summer in Qavinaq and when fall came, he got ready to
go back to the Yukon. Qillerkavialuk had told all the other men of the
village not to bother the Yukon warrior at any time even if he is seen
walking around the village. He told them not to harm him. When he
was going back Qillerkavialuk gave the warrior his aliqsaqs (woven
grass boot liners).
When the Yukon warrior arrived in the fall to his village from
ilaliyaq he went to the men’s house rst thing. In the men’s house the
Yukon warrior took his mukluks o and removed his aliqsaqs. The
rest of the Yukon warriors knew the warrior did not make them him-
self and asked him who the aliqsaqs belonged to. The man who went
to ilaliyaq said they belonged to his host Qillerkavialuk.
When they learned the aliqsaqs were a great man’s, the people
of the men’s house took the boot liners and tied them together and
hung them at the back end of the men’s house. They had their shamans
get together and perform shamanistic acts against the aliqsaqs all win-
ter. They sang songs. They conjured. They threw darts at them. They
danced and prayed for the strength to win the war. Then the boot
liners, even through they didn’t have esh or body that could bleed,
started dripping blood. When the aliqsaqs started bleeding, they knew
that they had that man. That happened right before summer.
That summer the Yukon warriors travel toward Qavinaq through
Ethnohistory
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 555
the Qissunaq River. They came down on a foggy day. They were look-
ing for that man, Qillerkavialuk.
When the people of Qavinaq woke up one morning, their river
was low tide. The people of Qavinaq had the war leader, Qillerkavia-
luk, and their advisor and speaker was Kinguk. Kinguk would advise
the warriors when they were going to ght.
The Yukon boats approached that morning, and they gathered
together. Seeing the boats, the warriors of Qavinaq came out of their
houses. Qillerkavialuk got ready, painted his face with embers, and
took his parka o. He put on waterproof skin waders and put on two
seal gut raincoats. This was how he prepared himself for a war.
A little ways downriver was a small slough called Itqarissiq. The
Yukon warriors got ready to climb out of their boats; some had already
climbed out and were on the riverbank. Whenever they climbed on the
riverbank they would tighten their strings on their bows. Then Kinguk
advised his warriors to start shooting their arrows at the warriors on
the riverbank before all the warriors could climb out of their boats.
When Kinguk said this, Qillerkavialuk said not to do that but to start
when all the warriors had climbed up because it had been a long time
since they had killed many people at one war.
When warriors from both sides had lined up across from each
other, they started talking to each other. They would bring up the
names of the dead that had been killed by their enemy.
After they had started talking for some time, the Yukon warriors
asked where Qillerkavialuk was. Without hesitation, one of the Qavi-
naq warriors who was not Qillerkavialuk stepped out and presented
himself by saying he was Qillerkavialuk. The Yukon warriors didn’t
believe him because they knew how Qillerkavialuk looked at wars
because he used a seal gut raincoat and painted his face black with
embers. Again, the Yukon asked where Qillerkavialuk was. Another
warrior quickly stepped out and said he was Qillerkavialuk. The
Yukon warriors asked for Qillerkavialuk for the third time. After the
third time Qillerkavialuk stepped out and asked “why are you looking
for me? What do you want to do with me?”
When all the Yukon warriors aimed at him, Qillerkavialuk
remained in his position, thinking that what usually happened when
he was hit by arrows would happen. The arrows used to hit but not
penetrate and would fall from his seal gut raincoat. He just remained
and stared at the Yukon warriors.
When the arrows hit him, he fell down and when he fell his body
was not touching the ground because there were so many arrows on
his body front and back. When Qillerkavialuk fell, a few Qavinaq war-
Ethnohistory
Published by Duke University Press
556 Caroline Funk
riors ran to him and picked him up and ran back to the rest of the war-
riors. The warriors took Qillerkavialuk because they always depended
on him. They panicked and ed. The Yukon warriors ran behind and
got into their boats and took them downriver and got up on the river-
bank on the other side of the river. As the Qavinarmiut swam across
the river to run away from the Yukon warriors, the Yukon warriors got
in front of them and started killing the Qavinarmiut who were swim-
ming. A lot of the Qavinaq warriors died when eeing across the river.
Very few Qavinarmiut escaped and the Yukon warriors wanted to
kill them all thinking about the many warriors they lost in the previ-
ous war. When some of the Qavinarmiut warriors escaped and went to
Qangllumiut, the Yukon warriors went after them.
When they got to Qangllumiut, a nearby village, they found two
young boys. They removed all their clothing and checked their bodies
by squeezing them. One of the Yukon warriors asked one of their
warriors which boy he wanted to have. The man wanted the younger
brother. Then the Yukon warriors took the older boy and had the
younger one sit and watch them. Four warriors took his wrists and
ankles and stretched his body outward on all sides until he died.
The Yukon warriors returned to Qavinaq and gathered the dead
and some of the warriors burned the houses after they gathered wood
and put it at the entrances. Even though the warriors weren’t supposed
to harm the women, the Yukon warriors burned their homes.
While the warriors were busy burning the houses, one of the
women came out of her sodhouse and started saying to one of the
Yukon warriors, “yangaaq . . . arca,” or “quit tormenting your sister’s
children.
The warriors burned down all the sodhouses to nothing. Despite
what the woman said, the Yukon warriors continued to burn every-
thing. To this day, people think that the woman who hollered was a
captive from the Yukoners.
There’s graves all around this area. Women buried the dead in
bunches after the attack. War graves are in dierent places than graves
from before. War dead have no cons.
People didn’t go back there after. (Aloralrea 1981; Bunyan 1984;
Friday 1981a, 1983c, d, e, f, g, 1984d; Friday and Jones 1983; Hoelscher
and Hoelscher 1983; Moses and Friday 1983; Paniyak 1983)
The Most Recent End to the Bow and Arrow War Days
The Bow and Arrow War Days were over, if not forgotten, by the 1830s. As
described above, Zagoskin in the 1830s and Nelson in the 1870s witnessed
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 557
social tensions related to the wars, but there was no active raiding. In fact,
the mid- to late 1800s may have been a freer time in Yup’ik history. After
the danger of war ended, people moved about the landscape without worry,
engaging in hunting, shing, social activities, and travel without fear (Fri-
day 1984f). Some elders in the 1980s were nally beginning to forget the
events of the war stories (Buster 1985), although the Bow and Arrow War
Days resonate still for some Yupiit. A few elders were concerned that talk-
ing about the War Days could spark old enmities among villagers now living
together throughout the region (Kurtz 1985: 9–10).
The end of the wars came about through two or three mechanisms, one
of which may have been the Russians, with their trade interests and re-
power. Some Yupiit believe that the Russians are really the only reason the
Bow and Arrow Wars ended (Friday and Jones 1983), at least partly because
the white men (Russians) had better weapons that could not be beat with
local technology (Evan 1984a). In some oral histories, it is told that the
Russians directly ended the War Days by threatening to side with victims
of attack (Friday 1983f, 1984d). O’Leary calls the eect of the Russians on
cessation of the War Days “direct colonial intervention in the resolution of
native hostilities” (n.d.: 26). Other oral histories say that the riverine Yupik
acquired rearms in trade before the coastal Yupik, so the coastals decided
not to attack anymore (Joe and Beans 1984). Fienup-Riordan supports the
notion that the new trade with Russia was instrumental in ending the wars
but also suggests that the debilitating 1838–39 smallpox epidemic signi-
cantly inuenced the end of the raiding through simple demographic attri-
tion (Fienup-Riordan 1994: 328). This seems a reasonable hypothesis given
the perspective stated above that fewer people meant less war. It is pos-
sible that a desire for the newly arriving Western goods replaced the raiding
parties with trading parties, and hostilities faded away or transformed into
dierent forms of competition in the new economic situation (as in Frink
2003: 181).
There are two oral histories that explain how the Bow and Arrow
War Days ended, and they are suciently dierent that they may describe
the end to two dierent episodes in the wars. One describes events that
occurred on the sea ice just oshore of Hooper Bay. Since the battle at
Hooper Bay occurred before the annihilation of Qavinaq, this oral history
probably relates to an earlier phase in the recent Bow and Arrow War or an
earlier war altogether. This oral history does not include any Russian inu-
ence. Two men, one from Hooper Bay and one from Pastoliq, were hunting
for seals on the ice (Henry 1984a, d, f). As John Henry (1984a, f) conveys
it, their families were starving, they were starving, and the Pastoliq man’s
hunting companions had died as they traveled across the ice. The two men
arrived at the same hole in the ice and saw a seal, but the Pastoliq man was
Ethnohistory
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558 Caroline Funk
too weak to make the kill so the Hooper Bay man did it. Afterward, the
Hooper Bay man began to eat his limited provisions of dried sh, while
the Pastoliq man walked away to avoid watching. The Hooper Bay man
decided to share his dried sh, and then the seal as well. The Pastoliq man
and the Hooper Bay man agreed that there would be no more wars between
their people.
The other oral history describing the end of the Bow and Arrow War
Days is the nal segment of the Qavinaq cycle, and by the end of it, the
Russians had arrived in the riverine area. In this sequence of events, the boy
who wasn’t stretched to death after the Qavinaq annihilation was taken
back north as a son to the warrior who took him (Friday 1984d; Friday
and Jones 1983). He was named Panik. When he grew to be a young man,
Panik systematically killed any other young man who looked like he might
become a good warrior (Friday 1984d). After killing the youngest of ve
brothers, Panik had to leave the village of his adopted parents (ibid.). They
asked him to return to his home, and he journeyed downriver to Hooper
Bay rather than to his home village (ibid.; Friday and Jones 1983). While
he was journeying, the Russians arrived in the riverine Yupik area (Friday
1984d).
Panik and one other man were sent back upriver with drums, which
make people happy, and a bow and arrow (Friday and Jones 1983). They
took their drums in their qayaqs and traveled upriver to a spot across the
river from a village, probably Pilot Station, where two qayaqs of men from
the village came out and asked them what they were doing, and Panik and
the other man said they wanted to stop warring and use the drums for dances
and the bow and arrow for hunting (Friday 1984d; Friday and Jones 1983).
The locals left and came back after awhile to ask Panik and his friend over
to the men’s house in the village (Friday 1984d). There they set up the drums
and explained to all the men that they wanted to use the drums instead of
warring, and the local men did not answer (ibid.). Eventually they all went
to a meeting back in Hooper Bay, and messengers went out afterward that
these two sides would not ght any more (Friday and Jones 1983).
Meanwhile, the Russians in the area learned of the wars (Friday 1984d).
They said that if anyone went on a raid, they, the Russians, would help those
who did not raid (ibid.; Friday and Jones 1983). According to the oral his-
tory, the Yukoner Yupiit and the coastal Yupiit did not raid again because
they were afraid of the Russian weapons, even though there was still some
animosity (Friday 1984d; Friday and Jones 1983). So the Bow and Arrow
War Days ended because the people of both sides wanted to stop the raiding
and because the Russians prevented violence.
The theme of ending the war through music is echoed in nearby
Ethnohistory
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 559
Nelson Island, where dance apparently replaced war in a spontaneous act
of peace (Fienup-Riordan 1994: 333). This suggests that the most recent Tri-
angle area Bow and Arrow War Days may have ended near the time of Rus-
sian arrival, but they ended because of local social negotiations, not simply
because of pressure from international trade processes.
The Bow and Arrow Wars in the
North American Context
The Bow and Arrow Wars deeply inuenced daily life activities for genera-
tions of Triangle area Yupiit and Cupiit. These wars may have been part of a
pan-Alaskan, even pan–North American, series of conicts in which small
nations raided each other, sometimes to complete annihilation. Nearby in
Alaska, other Yup’ik, Aleut, and Iñupiaq peoples engaged in similarly vio-
lent and constant war, using remarkably similar techniques to perpetrate
and justify the incessant homicide. It seems now that these wars, in Alaska
and throughout North America, preceded the inuence of Western states
by hundreds of years.
The Triangle area Yup’ik Bow and Arrow War Days were related to
competition for resources, including territory, competition for status
among men and women, stress, environmental shifts, political and demo-
graphic pressures, trade, and certainly a habit for feuding and violence that
could have perpetuated the raiding cycles far beyond memory of any origi-
nal stimuli, or may have even masked more materialist stimuli. Studies cen-
tering on why war happens and how it is maintained in microscale hunter-
gatherer nations can now include the Triangle area Yup’ik Bow and Arrow
War Days in their analyses.
Notes
Yup’ik language words follow the Jacobson 1984 orthography. Place names are
the formal site names on record in reports from the Bureau of Indain Aairs
(BIA) Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) and in the Alaska Heritage
Resources Survey (AHRS) database. The taped oral history interviews cited are on
le at the BIA ANCSA Oce, Anchorage, AK, and the Rasmussen Library Oral
History Program, Fairbanks, AK.
I learned about the rich record of the Bow and Arrow War Days during my
thesis research at the Anchorage oce of the BIA ANCSA 14(h)(1). Thank you to
Debbie Corbett, Ken Pratt, Matt O’Leary, and other scholars in Anchorage who
aided me. I appreciate the care taken to produce high-quality information by Calista
Region elders and the BIA ANCSA investigators during ANCSA eld research.
Thank you to the Calista Corporation for formally granting permission for me to
work with the regional ANCSA les. Errors in this article are my own.
Ethnohistory
Published by Duke University Press
560 Caroline Funk
1 Yupik and Cupik are two local cultural identities: Yupiit and Cupiit are plural
forms and Yup’ik and Cup’ik are adjective forms.
2 The United States Bureau of Indian Aairs Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
14(h)(1) interview tapes are on le at the Anchorage, AK, ANCSA Oce (see
Pratt 2009b).
3 Nelson (1983 [1899]) and Zagoskin (1967) use many alternate names for the
Magemiut or Marayarmiut; however, they seem to be talking about the same
geographic area.
4 John Kilbuck and his wife, along with several others, were inuential mission-
aries in the region just south of the Triangle. Kilbuck’s notes are a major source
for information about Yup’ik culture prior to changes in the post–World War II
era. The Moravian church did not release all of Kilbuck’s notes to the general
public and apparently deliberately selected which of his notes should be released
in only limited contexts (Fienup-Riordan 1991, 1994: 322).
5 Normally, interviews with older people minimize the amount of information
distortion resulting from the “unconscious” incorporation of false information
(Vansina 1985: 6–32). Since the Bow and Arrow Wars concluded long before any
living person could remember, the age of the person interviewed is less signi-
cant than his or her personal interest in the past.
6 As noted in Burch (2005), the societies or nations involved in the Yup’ik Bow
and Arrow Wars had a population size of about 500 persons. Burch considers
these to be “microscale nations.
7 Kaputlik is translated as “knife ght” (Henry 1981); kapuutlleq, “the one that
poked” (Henry 1984e). Kapuutllermiut is MAR-00075 in the AHRS database.
Calibrated radiocarbon dating indicates occupation ca. AD 1005–1405 at a 2 σ
probability (O’Leary 2007: 36).
8 Aurrvigmiut is translated as “crawling” (Friday and Jones 1983). Sometimes the
crawling man was identied as the woman’s husband (Nayamin 1983).
9 Sometimes the site named is St. Marys (Smith 1981) and sometimes the son-in-
law’s home village remains unnamed.
10 Englullugpagmiut is translated as “a big mound” (Friday 1984b). This probably
is not the historical name of the village but describes the huge mounds on which
the sodhouses were built. Englullugpagmiut is MAR-00008 in the AHRS data-
base, and calibrated radiocarbon dating indicates an occupation of at least AD
1400–1620 2 σ (O’Leary 2007: 136). This date range is well within the sus-
pected Bow and Arrow War Days era. The woman who survived the eye-poking
incident ed to this site with her children on her husband’s sled (Friday 1983a).
11 This event may have occurred near the ancient village site Nuvugmiut (MAR-
00041 in the AHRS database), which is ancestral to modern Hooper Bay (Bun-
yan 1984).
12 This event probably occurred at Nuvugmiut, an ancestral village to modern
Hooper Bay village, but locals tend to refer to the entire settlement sequence as
“Hooper Bay” (Bell 1984). Kurt Bell told a thorough version of the Hooper Bay
battle, but he makes special note that the story should not instigate hard feelings
in today’s people, who are from villages from both sides of the conict (ibid.).
13 Akutaq, literally “a mixture,” is made of deer or seal fat chewed until soft and
frothy and mixed with berries. It is commonly known as “Eskimo ice cream.
14 Only one variant in this oral history theme includes a woman and her son instead
of a woman and her husband (Paniyak and Aloralrea 1981).
15 Qillerkavialuk is pronounced KIXH-ka-vel.
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The Bow and Arrow War Days on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta 561
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Ethnohistory
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... Perhaps in eulogizing the peace of their past they are being rhetorical, picking the part of their history that best serves their present need, which is to create an opposition between traditional Yup'ik values that they seek to preserve and the Western world that they increasingly view as a threat. (Fienup-Riordan et Rearden 2016, 110) De fait, une source importante pour la compréhension de cette période de conflit précontact se base largement sur l'histoire orale des peuples natifs, notamment documentée dans le cadre de l'Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), entre les années 1970et 1990(Fienup-Riordan et Rearden 2016Funk 2010;Pratt 2013). À cette époque, le Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) a constitué une documentation exhaustive de l'histoire orale des différentes populations natives de l'Alaska, en invitant les aînés à raconter l'histoire orale de leur peuple. ...
... À cette époque, le Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) a constitué une documentation exhaustive de l'histoire orale des différentes populations natives de l'Alaska, en invitant les aînés à raconter l'histoire orale de leur peuple. Les Bow-and-Arrow Wars étaient très présents dans les récits des populations yupiit (Funk 2010) et même certaines batailles spécifiques sont largement documentées par diverses sources orales, témoignant de leur crédibilité (Pratt 2013). ...
... Les conflits yupiit se définissent essentiellement par une succession de raids sur des villages (notamment motivés en représailles à une action précédente), dont l'objectif est l'annihilation complète et l'exécution de tous les habitants, femmes et enfants inclus (Fienup-Riordan et Rearden 2016;Funk 2010;Griffin 2002). La destruction et l'incendie des villages est une constante de l'histoire orale dans toute la zone yup'ik (Funk 2010). ...
... Perhaps in eulogizing the peace of their past they are being rhetorical, picking the part of their history that best serves their present need, which is to create an opposition between traditional Yup'ik values that they seek to preserve and the Western world that they increasingly view as a threat. (Fienup-Riordan et Rearden 2016, 110) De fait, une source importante pour la compréhension de cette période de conflit précontact se base largement sur l'histoire orale des peuples natifs, notamment documentée dans le cadre de l'Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), entre les années 1970et 1990(Fienup-Riordan et Rearden 2016Funk 2010;Pratt 2013). À cette époque, le Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) a constitué une documentation exhaustive de l'histoire orale des différentes populations natives de l'Alaska, en invitant les aînés à raconter l'histoire orale de leur peuple. ...
... À cette époque, le Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) a constitué une documentation exhaustive de l'histoire orale des différentes populations natives de l'Alaska, en invitant les aînés à raconter l'histoire orale de leur peuple. Les Bow-and-Arrow Wars étaient très présents dans les récits des populations yupiit (Funk 2010) et même certaines batailles spécifiques sont largement documentées par diverses sources orales, témoignant de leur crédibilité (Pratt 2013). ...
... Les conflits yupiit se définissent essentiellement par une succession de raids sur des villages (notamment motivés en représailles à une action précédente), dont l'objectif est l'annihilation complète et l'exécution de tous les habitants, femmes et enfants inclus (Fienup-Riordan et Rearden 2016;Funk 2010;Griffin 2002). La destruction et l'incendie des villages est une constante de l'histoire orale dans toute la zone yup'ik (Funk 2010). ...
Article
Full-text available
RÉSUMÉ La fouille du site de Nunalleq (GDN-248) en territoire yup’ik a révélé une succession d’au moins trois niveaux allant vers 1570-1630 après J.C. à 1645–1675 après J.C. correspondant à plusieurs phases de construction et d’habitation d’une maison semisouterraine de l’époque précontact du village historiquement appelé Agaligmiut. Les occupations du site s’inscrivent dans le cadre historique des Bow-and-Arrow Wars, et le dernier niveau concerne justement la destruction et l’abandon du village après un raid par un groupe extérieur. Cette étude se focalise sur l’outillage en pierre, et plus précisément sur les pointes de projectiles. Il s’agit donc d’étudier cette période de conflits à travers un des types d’outils ayant justement servi à ce conflit : les armatures de flèches. L’étude de ce matériel a permis de mieux comprendre le déroulement de l’attaque qui a conduit à la destruction et l’abandon du village, ainsi que certains aspects de la période des Bow-and-Arrow Wars, qui demeure relativement peu connue d’un point de vue archéologique. ABSTRACT Polished Projectile Points from the Nunalleq site (Agaligmiut village), Southwest Alaska: A New Approach to the Yupiit Bow-and-Arrow Wars The excavation of the Nunalleq site (GDN-248), located in Yup’ik territory, revealed a succession of at least three phases ranging from c. A.D. 1570-1630 to c. A.D. 1645‑1675 corresponding to several phases of construction and habitation of a sod dwelling dating from the pre-contact period of the historical village known as Agaligmiut. The occupation of the site takes place during the Bow-and-Arrow Wars, and the last phase actually corresponds to the destruction and abandonment of the village after a raid by an outside group. This study focuses on stone tools, and more specifically on projectile points. The objective is therefore to study this period of conflicts through one of the types of tools having served precisely to this conflict: the arrow points (end-blades). The study of these artifacts helped to better understand the course of the attack that led to the destruction and abandonment of the village, as well as some aspects of the period of the Bow-and-Arrow Wars, which remains relatively unknown from an archaeological point of view.
... L'accès à des outils métalliques était donc moins fréquent qu'à la période post-contact suivante. Le site a été abandonné après l'incendie et le massacre des derniers occupants, documentant ainsi une période sombre de conflits intergroupes dans cette région (Fienup-Riordan et al. 2016 ;Funk 2010). Dans l'aire A, cette attaque correspond au niveau E de la phase II, assez pauvre en industrie osseuse. ...
... L'accès à des outils métalliques était donc moins fréquent qu'à la période post-contact suivante. Le site a été abandonné après l'incendie et le massacre des derniers occupants, documentant ainsi une période sombre de conflits intergroupes dans cette région (Fienup-Riordan et al. 2016 ;Funk 2010). Dans l'aire A, cette attaque correspond au niveau E de la phase II, assez pauvre en industrie osseuse. ...
Article
Full-text available
The caribou antler exploitation among the Yupiit during the pre-contact period was rather undocumented before the discovery of the Nunalleq site (southwestern Alaska) that benefitted from exceptional conditions of preservation. This very rich site yielded more than 3,400 osseous artefacts that are under study. The procurement and manufacturing strategies of the caribou antlers, the dominant raw material, are analyzed. The typological and technological study performed on more than a half of the collection (2009-2015 excavations) showed strong regularities in the ways the antlers were split and exploited, whatever the module and the type of antler (slaughtered versus shed antler). The small variations observed might reflect adaptations for dealing with morphological constraints and/or immediate functional needs. Despite the harder environmental conditions and intensified conflicts that occurred in the area during the Little Ice Age, Nunalleq inhabitants were highly resilient. The changes between the two main phases of occupation excavated stayed very subtle.
Article
Background: Although anthropogenic climate change poses existential challenges for Indigenous communities in the Arctic, these challenges are not entirely unprecedented. Over many generations, Arctic peoples have developed a wide range of behavioral strategies to navigate environmental change and uncertainty, and these strategies provide a foundation for contemporary adaptation. Aims: In this article, we focus on mixed cash-subsistence economies and the social networks that underlie them in Alaska. The patterns of food production, labor exchange, and food sharing in subsistence-oriented communities throughout Alaska are driven by the productivity of keystone households who regularly harvest and share resources within and between communities. Materials & methods: Building on previous research suggesting the critical importance of these networks to community resilience, we use network analysis to investigate whether patterns in resource transfers between households are associated with subsistence harvest diversity-the diversity of species harvested by a household unit. We use exponential random graph models to describe the structure of a sharing network from Aniak, Alaska, and model the links between harvest productivity, harvest diversity, and household position in this network. Results: Our results indicate that both productivity and diversity are positively associated with network connections, and that productivity alone provides an incomplete model of network structure. Discussion: We suggest that subsistence harvest diversity may play a unique role in supporting adaptive capacity and resilience by maintaining the productivity of keystone households despite changing environments and sustaining social network structures that circulate resources throughout the community. Harvest diversity may also serve as a broad indicator of Indigenous ecological knowledge and a tangible representation of cultural practices, values, and worldviews that underlie subsistence in Alaska. Conclusion: Greater attention to harvest diversity is important for understanding how subsistence networks adapt to environmental change and uncertainty linked to social and ecological dynamics of anthropogenic climate change.
Thesis
This thesis combines the new archaeological data from the Nunalleq site (16th–17th century AD) with ethnographic and oral-historic accounts to reconstruct the past and mend the breaks in our understanding of the development of Yup’ik mask-making traditions over time. Full text is available here: https://www.etera.ee/zoom/99913/view
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The precontact lifeways of Yup’ik people in Southwest Alaska were poorly known until the 2009–2018 excavations at the Nunalleq site near the village of Quinhagak. Until recently, the site dating from around AD 1400–1675 had been locked in permafrost that secured the extraordinary preservation of organic artefacts and faunal materials. As in many other hunter-gatherer communities across the North, animals were economically and culturally central to the lives of Nunalleq residents. This multidisciplinary paper combines the ethnographic study of unearthed artefacts with the results of subsistence and dietary studies at Nunalleq, and demonstrates how precontact Yup’ik ecologies were embodied in material culture, particularly in the iconography of ceremonial objects such as masks and mask attachments. Early ethnographic records and collections suggest that Yup’ik masks were often complex in structure and imagery, and can be considered miniature models of a multilayered and ensouled universe. Masks and other material culture representations highlight the way humans and animals are related and ontologically linked in Yup’ik worldviews. By taking this approach, this study aims to better understand the role of animals in the belief systems and lifeways of a precontact Nunalleq community.
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Centred on the underresearched precontact archaeology of southwest coastal Alaska, the Nunalleq project is a decade-long collaboration between the Yup'ik village of Quinhagak and the University of Aberdeen. The Nunalleq archaeological site, like countless others in the Arctic, is being rapidly destroyed by the combined effects of global warming. Newly thawed permafrost soils are extremely vulnerable to rapid marine erosion from rising sea levels and decreases in seasonal ocean ice cover. Organic artifacts at the site have been preserved in remarkably intact condition, revealing an extraordinary record of precontact Yup'ik culture. But with the disappearing permafrost, this archaeological and ecological record is gradually decomposing, and recovery and analysis has become time critical. The Nunalleq project is a community-based response to locally identified needs to both recover threatened archaeological heritage and to find new ways to reconnect young people to Yup'ik culture and tradition. The results of the project have far exceeded our original expectations. Similar collaborative efforts may be the best hope for addressing threatened archaeological heritage in the North and beyond.
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Arctic Alaskan ceramics offer several interpretive challenges for the archaeologist. In contrast to most cross-cultural patterns, these cooking vessels were produced by hunter-gatherers living in a cool and humid environment and were used to cook meat rather than starchy seeds. Additionally, when compared to cooking vessels and techniques from other areas of the world, their shapes and textures are atypical and appear poorly suited for their intended use. At first impression, these vessels might appear to reflect simply a lack of technological expertise. However, we argue that when considered in relation to the local social and environmental context under which these vessels were produced and used, these apparent contradictions can be understood.
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Colonialism redefined indigenous cultural orders, especially the meaning and value of gendered production. The differential gender effects of and responses to processes of colonialism are apparent in the difference in location and style of storage between two coastal western Alaskan sites. The late-prehistoric-to-historic shift of storage from inside the dwelling to outside can be interpreted as a decline of women's exclusive control over surpluses during the early-colonial market period, when subsistence products were reclassified as valued market-bound commodities. This redefinition and concomitant loss of full productive authority put women on a path from producers to auxiliary processors in the colonial market economy.