Yup'ik narratives of place make powerful statements about the health or illness of the world. Such stories illustrate how the land itself is responsive to human thought and action. The land, in essence, is a being among beings, and a particularly powerful and sensitive one. The sentient world responds to joy as well as to sorrow. This is an essential aspect of place in southwestern Alaska. In Hooper Bay, stories confer both personal and political power, allowing people to instruct others about dangerous situations, and indirectly make statements about events that are otherwise unspoken for fear of "making bad things worse." Narrative discourse of place empowers people who have experienced a history of domination and control. Man-made places, like the land, are also barometers of change. Stories allow people to speak about unspeakable tragedies that reflect the tensions of their relationships with outsiders. Other stories define and exclude those outsiders, such as missionaries and teachers, who are particularly associated with the institutions that represent domination. I argue, then, that for Yupiit in Hooper Bay, stories are not simply symbolic expressions but are active in social life. As Elsie Mather says, "Storytelling is part of the action of living" (Morrow and Schneider 1995:33).
Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2004
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