"Where I have to learn the ways how to live:" youth resilience in a Yup'ik village in Alaska

Transcult Psychiatry. 2014 Oct;51(5):713-34. doi: 10.1177/1363461514532512. Epub 2014 May 13.


What is it like to grow up Yup'ik and come of age today in a traditional hunting-gathering community setting located in a remote region of Alaska? Current research describes a contemporary experience often laden with trauma and crisis. Youth in Yup'ik communities today face threats to their very survival as they encounter, early on, things that their ancestors never faced--including alcohol-related deaths, violence in many forms, and high rates of suicide among their young peers. Yet all is not despair for the youth growing up in these remote indigenous communities. Many youth grow-up to become skilled hunters, strong leaders, and able parents. This paper reports findings from the Alaskan Yup'ik site of the Circumpolar Indigenous Pathways to Adulthood (CIPA) study. The goal of this study is to identify strengths and resilience in youth living in a Yup'ik community in southwest Alaska. Interviews were conducted with 25 youth age 11-18, currently residing in a southwest Alaska community. Qualitative analysis revealed important connections between local stressors, community-level protective resources, and youth-driven, solution-focused strategies for overcoming hardship and learning the "ways how to live." Findings from this study contribute critical information on indigenous youth protection and resilience, including community and cultural resilience processes beyond the individual level, and enhance our understanding of the types of resources that can lead to improved outcomes for Alaska Native youth.

Keywords: Alaska Native; indigenous; resilience; social change; youth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / ethnology*
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Alaska / ethnology
  • Arctic Regions / ethnology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inuits / ethnology*
  • Male
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Social Change