In 1990, Harold Napoleon, a Yupik Alaskan Eskimo, wrote an essay titled "YUUYARAQ: The Way of the Human Being". It is a poignant analysis of the trauma that affected Alaskan Natives both from the intrusion of white civilization and the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 which Yupiks called "The Great Death".
The Great Death killed thousands of Native Alaskans and shattered the Yupik faith in Yuuyaraq (the spiritual understanding they had of God and Life). Under the disorienting influence of a powerful foreign culture, and physically devastated by an alien disease that wiped out 60% of Native Alaskans, their world was turned upside down. The white man's medicine worked on the influenza. The shaman's did not. Many survivors lost faith in Yuuyaraq and floundered in a sea of post traumatic stress. The loss of family, friends, and control over their lives and land eroded their spiritual faith in their God and their way of living. Adding to this desolation, some missionaries told them their beliefs were superstitions and that they had been following the devil. Defeated, disrespected, overwhelmed, many survivors could not talk about it, nor feel assured enough to pass on Yuuyaraq to their children. Many native children were sent to mission schools where their own culture was denigrated and they were punished for speaking their own language. The emotional scars of The Great Death were passed on to descendants and several generations grew up in an alienated void. Something in their spiritual essence was missing. They were adrift. Villages, families, and communities deteriorated and alcoholism and domestic violence increased.
This film would depict Yupik life prior to and during the Great Death and would examine what is now being done to help Yupik Eskimos regain meaning in their lives. Harold Napoleon has suggested talking circles to reconnect people and to reduce alcoholism. He also recommends that local industries be established that would help people not be dependent on government welfare and make their lives meaningful again.
* The Rasmuson Foundation of Anchorage has agreed to match every dollar raised for this film up to a total of $15,000.
Risks and challenges
I have ALS and I'm still getting around fine, but I do need to get all my shooting done this year. I plan to film in the late summer and fall and edit over the winter. I have professionals lined up who can help me shoot the film and, should I need it, assist in post production.
I've made many documentaries and t.v. spots since the late 1970s and have worked in Hollywood as a picture and sound editor.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (45 days)