Understanding Cultural Resilience and Climate Change on the Bering Sea through Yup'ik Ecological Knowledge, Lifeways, Learning and Archaeology (ELLA)
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Has principal investigator Richard Arden Knecht
Impact Who will benefit from this research? 1.Climate scientists and social scientists interested in the localised effects of past climate change on Arctic ecosystems and on the human populations living in the Arctic. 2.Heritage managers (e.g. policy-makers, third sector/non-profit organisations, land-owning Native corporations) interested in developing local, economically-sustainable strategies for managing threatened cultural resources, particularly in coastal regions. 3.Local communities, including the public, school-aged children, local non-profit organisations (i.e. Tribal Councils). 4.Artisans and traditional craftspeople interested in rediscovering technique and design of precontact material culture. 5.The media and the wider international public, students and school-level audiences. 6.PDRA staff and PhD students employed on the project. How will they benefit from this research? 1.Generation of new palaeoenvironmental proxy data pertaining to the localised effects of past climatic changes on Arctic ecosystems, and past human responses to those fluctuating climatic conditions, illuminating cultural resilience and adaptation. 2.Provide models/guidelines for economically-sustainable protocols for dealing with damage to cultural sites from coastal erosion, and providing primary heritage management advice to remote, coastal communities. 3.Public engagement/outreach events will raise local heritage awareness and practically help to preserve cultural heritage via community archaeology/participation. This project will also create new avenues for imparting traditional indigenous knowledge to younger people raised in an increasingly westernised cultural environment. 4.Recovery of high quality artwork and craft items from archaeological sites that are not extant or rarely encountered in ethnographic museum collections 5.Inform general public audiences of the issues of climatic change in an accessible way, presenting the 'human face' of climate change, and making the public aware of future vulnerabilities and coping mechanisms. 6.Provide training in research specialisms for PDRAs/PhD students, and help develop advanced teamwork, presentation and oral communication skills. What will be done to ensure that they benefit from this research? 1.Routine academic dissemination activities through peer-reviewed journals, conference participation, book chapters/conference proceedings, etc. 2.Production and distribution of Community Handbook for Threatened Archaeological Sites, including deposition on ADS for long term, open access. 3.Local outreach events, emphasising community-led archaeology and building cultural heritage awareness, in both Alaska and Scotland, including annual ELLA Community Workshops. At such events we will incorporate 'hands-on' experiences with artefacts, as well as the use of tablet displays for 'no touch, hands on' interaction. Workshop reports will also be deposited on ADS for open access. Participation in formal education programmes (e.g. KuC's Summer Science Camp) and generation/distribution of education packages for schools will ensure wider educational benefits of this project. 4.Traditional craftspeople will be included in community workshops and given access to recovered collections. 5.Following on from recent press interest (e.g. BBC) further press releases will be made during the project. Open access publication/general interest publications (e.g. Scientific American, National Geographic, etc) will target non-specialist audiences. Existing project web pages will be maintained and regularly updated on the University of Aberdeen Department of Archaeology website in order to target the wider global community and our highly successful fieldwork project blog (www.nunalleq.wordpress.com) will be maintained both during and between periods of fieldwork. 6.PDRAs/PhD students will take an active role in dissemination activities (academic and public engagement and outreach) as well as core research.
Status Active
Identifier AH/K006029/1
abstract Northern sea ice levels are at an historical and millennial low, and nowhere are the effects of contemporary climate change more pronounced and destructive than in the Arctic. The Western Arctic rim of North America is considered the climate change "miners canary", with temperatures increasing at twice the global average. In the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (Y-K Delta), Western Alaska, the indigenous Yup'ik Eskimos are facing life-altering decisions in an uncertain future, as rising temperatures, melting permafrost and coastal erosion threaten traditional subsistence lifeways, livelihoods and settlements - the Yup'ik face becoming "the world's first climate change refugees" (The Guardian 2008). For the Yup'ik, however - whose relationship to the total environment is central to their worldview - coping with global climate change entails far more than adapting to new physical and ecological conditions. This is reflected in the holistic incorporation of both natural and social phenomena embodied in the use of the Yup'ik word ella, (variably translating as "weather", "world", "universe", "awareness"), which is understood in intensely social as well as physical terms. Ella reflects the relationship Yup'ik society has with the natural world. As changing environmental conditions jeopardise traditional subsistence practices in the Arctic, their deep-rooted dependency and social connection to the land is also threatened - further severing their ecological ties and compromising their cultural adaptive capacity that has defined Yup'ik community and identity for thousands of years. Rapid climatic change is by no means a uniquely modern phenomenon and the indigenous cultures of this region have faced such life-changing situations before. In fact, Western Alaska has experienced pronounced climatic variations within the last millennia, with the forebears of the Yup'ik being similarly challenged by regime shifts that would have influenced the availability of important subsistence resources, much the same as their descendants face today. The ELLA project will use both the products and processes of archaeological research to understand how Yup'ik Eskimos adapted to rapid climate change in the late prehistoric past (AD 1350-1700), and to inform and empower descendant Yup'ik communities struggling with contemporary global warming today. Taking full advantage of the spectacular but critically endangered archaeological resource now emerging from melting permafrost along the Bering Sea coast, this community-based project will illuminate the adaptive capacity of the precontact Yup'ik; build sustainable frameworks for the documenting of local sites under threat; and reinforce Yup'ik cultural resilience by providing new contexts for encountering and documenting their past.
Type Project
Label Understanding Cultural Resilience and Climate Change on the Bering Sea through Yup'ik Ecological Knowledge, Lifeways, Learning and Archaeology (ELLA)
homepage http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk:80/projects?ref=AH%2FK006029%2F1
Title Understanding Cultural Resilience and Climate Change on the Bering Sea through Yup'ik Ecological Knowledge, Lifeways, Learning and Archaeology (ELLA)

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