Embodied Knowledge, Relations with the Environment, and Political Negotiation: St. Lawrence Island Yupik and Iñupiaq Dance in Alaska

Hiroko Ikuta

Abstract

This article explores how Alaskan Eskimos’ relationship with the environment is recapitulated in their indigenous forms of dance and what roles these dances play in political discourse. Traditional dance has been a means by which Alaskan Eskimos express their sentiment about the environment. It often draws upon imagery of the landscape and seascape of the Arctic, human and animal interaction, and body movement of hunting and gathering activities. I argue that Eskimo dance, which encodes a culturally specific system of embodied knowledge, is a powerful presentation of political symbolism that people employ in various social contexts, particularly in indigenous empowerment and political discourse of land claims and subsistence hunting issues in Alaska.

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