A Tale of Three Villages

Indigenous-Colonial Interactions in Southwestern Alaska, 1740–1950

Liam Frink (Author)
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People are often able to identify change agents. They can estimate possible economic and social transitions, and they are often in an economic or social position to make calculated—sometimes risky—choices. Exploring this dynamic, A Tale of Three Villages is an investigation of culture change among the Yup’ik Eskimo people of the southwestern Alaskan coast from just prior to the time of Russian and Euro-North American contact to the mid-twentieth century.

Liam Frink focuses on three indigenous-colonial events along the southwestern Alaskan coast: the late precolonial end of warfare and raiding, the commodification of subsistence that followed, and, finally, the engagement with institutional religion. Frink’s innovative interdisciplinary methodology respectfully and creatively investigates the spatial and material past, using archaeological, ethnoecological, and archival sources.

The author’s narrative journey tracks the histories of three villages ancestrally linked to Chevak, a contemporary Alaskan Native community: Qavinaq, a prehistoric village at the precipice of colonial interactions and devastated by regional warfare; Kashunak, where people lived during the infancy and growth of the commercial market and colonial religion; and Old Chevak, a briefly occupied “stepping-stone” village inhabited just prior to modern Chevak. The archaeological spatial data from the sites are blended with ethnohistoric documents, local oral histories, eyewitness accounts of people who lived at two of the villages, and Frink’s nearly two decades of participant-observation in the region.

Frink provides a model for work that examines interfaces among indigenous women and men, old and young, demonstrating that it is as important as understanding their interactions with colonizers. He demonstrates that in order to understand colonial history, we must actively incorporate indigenous people as actors, not merely as reactors.
A Tale of Three Villages reflects an agile, resourceful approach to anthropological research. It draws on a variety of evidence, especially local knowledge in way that has come to define how good collaborative archaeology works today, and the result is a richly-informed diachronic account of Yup’ik place-making and identity.”—Amy V. Margaris, Ethnoarchaeology

“Frink’s work shows us that we have an opportunity to move our shared discipline in a new trajectory that values the knowledge produced by Indigenous scientists and establishes communities as equal partners in research that knows about, and cares about the past.”—Canadian Journal of Archaeology  

“Uses a novel approach to understanding the native (Alaskan) past and how the experiences that comprise that past were negotiated between indigenous and colonizing peoples.”—James A. Delle, co-editor of Out of Many, One People: The Historical Archaeology of Colonial Jamaica

“A significant contribution to Yup’ik studies and the archaeology and ethnohistory of southwestern Alaska.”—Christyann M. Darwent, University of California, Davis

“The work is one of the most significant in the literature of Arctic anthropology, archaeology, and ethnohistory.”—Journal of Anthropological Research

“A contribution of theoretical, methodological, and regional significance.”—UNLV News

“This text is remark­able in its capacity for descriptive visualization of pre-industrial Yup’ik life­ways. ”—Journal of Jesuit Studies
A Tale of Three Villages
184 Pages 6 x 9 Published: 2016 Hardcover (9780816531097)
Ebook (9780816533800)

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