• Iliamna Lake ethnogeography: Yup'ik place names and sense of place

      Kugo, Yoko; Charles, Walkie; Ehrlander, Mary; Holton, Gary; Koskey, Michael; McCartney, Leslie (2021-05)
      This dissertation explores Iliamna Lake ethnogeography, the physical and mental understanding of the landscape, by researching Yup'ik place names and stories about these places from Iliamna Lake Yup'ik perspectives (Yupiit iingitgun). Many Yup'ik place names were forgotten after Euro-Americans arrived and introduced modern education in the early twentieth century. Some Iliamna Lake Yup'ik Elders remember Indigenous place names even though the subsistence resources in the places have declined or they no longer travel there due to environmental and cultural changes. Prompted by the declining population of Iliamna Lake Yup'ik speakers, along with their knowledge, the Iliamna Lake communities requested this study of Iliamna Lake Yup'ik place names and narratives about the places. Using two methods, oral history and a community-based participatory approach, the community participants and the author recorded 219 Yup'ik and over 100 contemporary place names during eight ethnographic field trips conducted from 2016 to 2019. This dissertation used two analytical methods--grounded theory and mindful inquiry--to categorize place names in themes that are relevant to Iliamna Lake community perspectives. This research revealed that place names and stories about these places illustrate community histories, lifeways, and cultural ethics and practices that are grounded in the people's intimate relationships with their homeland. Telling and retelling these stories enables the people to visualize their landscape, while affirming and reinforcing the knowledge and practices that have enabled the Yup'ik people to survive and thrive in the region for many generations. Ethnogeography addresses how these cultural landscapes intertwine with local histories and changes in land use from insider perspectives. Yup'ik names and stories related to these places act as mnemonic pegs or mental landmarks that assist the people in commemorating and continuing to navigate within their homelands. Maintaining their place names with accounts about these places supports Iliamna Lake residents in continuing to share their geographic knowledge, cultural practices, Yugcetun (Central Yup'ik language), and community histories, thereby enhancing community cohesiveness, which in turn promotes community and ecological well-being.