Faith, Food, and Family in a Yupik Whaling Community

Carol Zane Jolles
With Elinor Mikaghaq Oozeva

  • Published: July 2015
  • Subject Listing: Native American and Indigenous Studies; Food; Anthropology
  • Bibliographic information: 364 pp., 50 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

For more than fifteen hundred years Yupik and proto-Yupik Eskimo peoples have lived at the site of the Alaskan village of Gambell on St. Lawrence Island. Their history is a record of family and kin, and of the interrelationship between those who live in Gambell and the spiritual world on which they depend; it is a history dominated by an abiding desire for community survival.

Relying on oral history blended with ethnography and ethnohistory, Carol Zane Jolles views the contemporary Yupik people in terms of the enduring beliefs and values that have contributed to the community's survival and adaptability. She draws on extensive interviews with villagers, archival records, and scholarly studies, as well as on her own ten years of fieldwork in Gambell to demonstrate the central importance of three aspects of Yupik life: religious beliefs, devotion to a subsistence life way, and family and clan ties. Jolles documents the life and livelihood of this modern community of marine mammal hunters and explores the ways in which religion is woven into the lives of community members, paying particular attention to the roles of women. Her account conveys a powerful sense of the lasting bonds between those who live in Gambell and their spiritual world, both past and present.
Carol Zane Jolles is a research faculty member in anthropology at the University of Washington, Seattle.

"A welcome contribution to the literature on St. Lawrence Island, Inuit studies, the anthropology of religion, and circumpolar ethnography. The author's long experience in and respect for this Yupik community shines through on every page."
-Phyllis Morrow, University of Alaska, Fairbanks

1. Where it All Takes Place: The Village of Gambell
2. Early History
3. Names and Families
4. Marriage
5. Life Passages
6. A Religious World View
7. Believing
8. Men, Women, and Food: A Subsistence Way of Life
Conclusion: The Land, the People, the Future


"This ethnography. . . has much to offer a wide range of students and scholars. . . . Jolle's book provides a poignant portrait of how faith, food, and family saturate the lives of St. Lawrence Islanders."

"A careful and detailed account based on more than ten years of research on Gambell, a Yupik village on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Siberia. Jolles displays sensitive insight into a remote society dependent on sea mammals for survival in her anthropological analysis of the residents' history, religion, culture, and tradition, which reveals their unique understanding of the world. . . . Those fascinated by Inuit existence will find this book an important asset."