Gretchen McManus
Project Advisors: Margaret Cooke, Lucy Crow, Chase Hensel, Alexie Issac, Martha Larson, Cecilia Martz, Elsie Mather, Phyllis Morrow, Chrissie Shantz, Lucy Sparck
Production Date: 
Gretchen McManus; Associate Producer Elizabeth Mayock; Executive Producer John A. McDonald
Martha Larson
Run Time: 
KYUK-TV: Bethel, Alaska

Named locations: Bethel, Alaska
Major themes covered: The KYUK TV Productions Collection: explains the traditional manner in which children are entertained by native storytellers using storyknives to sketch images in the mud while telling the legends of the community
Native activities shown:  This video introduces the viewer to this form of play in which young girls tell stories to one another, using a storyknife to draw illustrations in the mud. The narrator tells how to use a storyknife and describes how this traditional Yup'ik Eskimo activity has served for generations to transmit cultural mores and values to the young women of the community.
Individuals Named: Ester Green, Minnie Chief, Lucille Jacobs, Martha Jacobs, Evie Sunnyboy, Clara Tuday
Native language spoken: Yup'ik (Eskimo language)
Audible:  Yes
Noteworthy elements:

Martha Larson, the narrator, also makes it clear that there are two main categories for the stories: first, stories that have been adapted from oral tradition and passed down for generations, and, second, stories about ordinary, daily life in Alaska. The stories derived from oral tradition are in conversation with the stories about everyday subsistence practices, as both of the types of stories illustrate, or construct a particularly Yup'ik identity and sense of place.

Other notes: From: The KYUK TV Productions Collection: a series of informative TV documentaries spotlighting varied aspects of life among the Yup’ik people of Southwestern Alaska. These films were produced by television station KYUK (Bethel Broadcasting) in Bethel, Alaska, which has kindly made them available to the American Indian Film Gallery.



*This is a link to the Smithsonian's Alaska Native Collections page. It provides a brief definition of stroyknifing and provides links to additional information about the practice of storyknifing. There is also a photo of a Yup'ik storyknife.


*This page provides a more detailed account of the practice of storyknifing, which complements the information provided in the film. There photographs of different types of storyknifes, and there are links that provide further information about Yup'ik culture and subsistence practices.

*This link provides more information about storyknifing and links to information about Yup'ik culture.

*This is a link to a blog written by a woman who is half-Yup'ik, Jessica Schneider. She provides a detailed background and an insider perspective to the practice of storyknifing and the meaning of different symbols and drawings.

*This is a link to videos of Yup'ik women talking about their language and customs in Yup'ik and in English.

Ager, Lynn Price. "Storyknifing: An Alaskan Eskimo Girl's Game." Journal of the Folklore Institute 11.3 (March 1975): 187-98. Print.

*This source explains the cultural context for the "game," or practice of storyknifing. Storyknifing is a specifically female subsistence practice, and it creates and transforms various storytelling devices and traditions within Eskimo culture in general.

---. The Eskimo Storyknife Complex of Southwestern Alaska. Fairbanks: Univ. of Alaska Press, 1971. Print.

*This source provides additional context for the practice and tradition of storyknifing in Eskimo culture.


Baker, Jill, Kathleen Bennett et al. "Meaning in Mud: Yup'ik Eskimo Girls at Play." Anthropology & Education Quarterly 23.2 (June 1992): 120-44. Print.


Bennett, Kathleen. Yup'ik Women's Ways of Knowing. ERIC Database: US Department of Education, 1988. Print.

*This source discusses the role of women in subsistence practices within Eskimo cultures. The function of storytelling is a key element within female modes of subsistence.


Fienup-Riordan, Ann. Wise Words of the Yup'ik People: We Talk to You Because We Love You. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2005. Print.

*See p.2-4; there is an interesting discussion about the role of storyknifing in creating a sense of kinship among individual family members, clans, and the larger Yup'ik culture.


George, Al'aq Mary M. et al. Akaguagaankaa : the story of a giant : yugpak quliraq : a storyknifing story. Calgary: Detselig Enterprises, 2010. Print.

*This source provides an example of a popular storyknifing tale.


Marsh, Valerie. Terrific tales to tell: from the storyknifing tradition. Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin: Alleyside Press, 1997. Print.


--Emily Thomas, 2013