Arctic Field Projects

Project Title: A Comparative Study of the Medical Ethnobotany of the Chukchi and Naukan Yupik of Siberia and the Central Alaskan Yup’ik (Award# 1304612)

PI: Jernigan, Kevin A (
Phone: (907) 543.4576  
Institute/Department: U of Alaska, Fairbanks, CRCD Kuskokwim Campus 
IPY Project?
Funding Agency: US\Federal\NSF\GEO\OPP\ARC\ASSP
Program Manager: Dr. Anna Kerttula (
Discipline(s): | Social and Human Sciences\Anthropology | Social and Human Sciences\Ethnobotany |

Project Web Site(s):

Science Summary:
This research is an ethnomedical comparison of the Chukchi and Naukan Yupik in Chukotka and the Central Alaskan Yup'ik. It will examine whether there are more similarities in medical beliefs between two societies speaking similar languages and sharing a deep historical root (Naukan Yupik and Central Alaskan Yup'ik), or between two societies speaking unrelated languages, but sharing the more recent influence of the dominant Russian culture (Naukan and Chukchi). The comparison will focus on beliefs about the effects that plants have on the body, including species believed to have medicinal, nutritional and toxic properties. It will address the following questions: 1)Which plants are considered to have health consequences in each culture, and how do the specific health consequences (perceived ability to prevent, treat or cause illness) attributed to each plant correlate among the cultures?; 2) How do concepts of illnesses, nutrition and toxicity themselves correlate among the three cultures?; 3) How do patterns in ethnomedical knowledge vary with language ability? and 4)What is the role of perspectivism in explaining human-plant interactions in each culture?

Logistics Summary:
This project involves researchers in a three-year comparative study of the medical ethnobotany of two cultures of the Russian Far East—Chukchi and Naukan Yupik—and one Alaskan culture, the Central Alaskan Yup’ik. Work takes place in Chukotka in summers of 2014-2016 and Alaska in 2016. Teams of up to four people will travel to villages within the study areas. There, they will meet with research participants, collect botanical specimens, and conduct ethnographic interviews. For the work in Russia, in 2016, the PI will deploy to the Chukotka region for approximately 42 days beginning in June to interview/film elders as they harvest plants near Lorino, Lavrentiya, and Cape Dezhnev. He will also travel to the tundra to interview/film reindeer herders.

In 2014 and 2015, CPS will provide Russian logistics support via transportation and per diem for the research team, payment of study participants, and local guiding assistance for the field research. In Russia in 2016, CPS will arrange a single subcontract for local travel by boat/vezdekhod/air, truck rental, lodging and meals in communities, local support from Chukotka Science Support Group (CSSG), and stipends for the elders who will be filmed and interviewed. The team will arrange and pay for all other logistics, including the work in Alaska in 2016, via the grant.
SeasonField SiteDate InDate Out#People
2014Russia - Chukotka07 / 14 / 2014 09 / 25 / 20144
2015Russia - Anadyr06 / 28 / 2015 09 / 18 / 20152
2015Russia - Ryrkaypiy07 / 02 / 2015 09 / 20 / 20153
2016Alaska - Hooper Bay07 / 06 / 2016 09 / 30 / 20164
2016Alaska - Quinhagak07 / 28 / 2016 09 / 30 / 20162
2016Russia - Lavrentiya06 / 16 / 2016 07 / 28 / 20162

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Parameters used to generate this report:, Grant# = "1304612", IPY = "ALL" 
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