Yuuyaraq, a Yup'ik ontology of permanence in Southwest Alaska: exploring the coordination of Indigenous-driven capitalist strategies, Native Corporations, and the "subsistence way of life"
Jory Stariwat (Carpentaria Land Council Aboriginal Corporation)
Paper short abstract:
The Yup'ik of Southwest Alaska use the past to guide their futures within the neoliberal economy through yuuyaraq, a way of being roughly translated to "the real way of life." It is through yuuyaraq that the Yup'ik confront precarity and sustain the "subsistence way of life."
Paper long abstract:
In a landmark settlement finalising all Native Title claims throughout Alaska, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 led to the creation of powerful Native Corporations with multi-million dollar capital investments across the globe. The investments generate dividends and distribute monetary income to even the most remote and jobless regions of the state. By strategically engaging in the global economy as a unified federation, the Indigenous peoples of Alaska have generated a cash flow to partially support what they call the "subsistence way of life"— place-based hunting and fishing economies guided by enduring principles and ontological philosophies interconnecting people, land, water, and the animals upon which they depend. Yup'ik communities of Southwest Alaska have sustained a collective place in the world through yuuyaraq, an ontology or way of being roughly translated to the "real way of life," in which human, animal, and other spirits are continually cycling through physical forms in perpetuity, each spirit holding memories of the past that shape the future. In a time of upheaval, the Yup'ik face the material precarity of balancing engagement in the global economy with place-based livelihoods dependent on healthy ecologies, coupled with the very real threats of climate change, development, and environmental devastation. But through yuuyaraq, the Yup'ik communities of Southwest Alaska use the past to guide their futures within the neoliberal economy, and it is through yuuyaraq they ensure the permanence of the "subsistence way of life.".
Visions beyond precarity: envisaging and practicing alternatives to neo-liberal modernity