An independent scholar, Ann Fienup-Riordan received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1980. She has lived, worked and taught in Alaska since 1973. During the last twenty years, she has changed the way she works in response to changing needs. In 1976-77 she carried out field work on Nelson Island in the "classic" anthropological tradition of participant observation, publishing the results in her first book, The Nelson Island Eskimo. Since then she has been involved in half-a-dozen collaborative research projects including work for the Association of Village Council Presidents, the Yupiit Nation, the Toksook Bay Traditional Council and for the Coastal-Yukon Mayors' Association and the Anchorage Museum of History and Art in their efforts to organize the Yup'ik mask exhibit "Agayuliyararput: Our Way of Making Prayer".
Since 1999 she has worked with the Calista Elders Council on a number of community-initiated proejcts, reflected in her major publications, including Wise Words of the Yup'ik People: We Talk to You because We Love You, Yuungnaqpiallerput/The Way We Genuinely Live, and Ellavut/Our Yup'ik World and Weather: Continuity and Change on the Bering Sea Coast.
In 1978 when her daughter Frances was born, she came to the conclusion that of the three things she wanted to do -- write, teach and raise kids -- she could juggle no more than two. She has since divided her time between research and writing projects: "Eskimo Essays"; "The Real People and the Children of Thunder"; "Boundaries and Passages"; "Freeze Frame: Alaska Eskimos in the Movies"; and "The Living Tradition of Yup'ik Masks"; and her children Frances, Jimmy and Nicky. In recognition of her work with Alaska Natives, she received the Alaska Federation of Natives President’s Award in 2000, and in 2001 the Governor’s Award for Distinguished Humanist Educator.
Ph.D., Cultural Anthropology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. 1980
M.A., Cultural Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. 1973.
B.A., Religious Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. 1971.
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The Yupiit in southwestern Alaska are members of the larger family of Inuit cultures. Including more than 20,000 individuals in seventy villages, the Yupiit continue to engage in traditional hunting activities, carefully following the seasonal shifts in the environment they know so well. During the twentieth century, especially after the construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, the Yup'ik people witnessed and experienced explosive cultural changes. Anthropologist Ann Fienup-Riordan explores how these subarctic hunters engage in a "hunt" for history, to make connections within their own communities and between them and the larger world. She turns to the Yupiit themselves, joining her essays with eloquent narratives by individual Yupiit, which illuminate their hunting traditions in their own words. To highlight the ongoing process of cultural negotiation, Fienup-Riordan provides vivid examples: How the Yupiit use metaphor to teach both themselves and others about their past and present lives; how they maintain their cultural identity, even while moving away from native villages; and how they worked with museums in the "Lower 48" on an exhibition of Yup'ik ceremonial masks. Ann Fienup-Riordan has published many books on Yup'ik history and oral tradition, including Eskimo Essays: Yup'ik Lives and How We See Them, The Living Tradition of Yup'ik Masks and Boundaries and Passages. She has lived with and written about the Yupiit for twenty-five years.