Social Identity and the Yup'ik Eskimo Village Tunnel System in Precolonial and Colonial Western Coastal Alaska



Some western Alaskan coastal prehistoric and protohistoric village sites had intrasite semisubterranean passageways that connected the village men's house(s) and the smaller family houses. These tunnels acted as an interstitial and negotiated space that connected the gendered spatial spheres of Yup'ik Eskimo women and men. Instead of examining a newly constructed space that may have transformed relationships, this work examines the historically contingent consequence of the loss of these tunnels as a built medium, both between women and men and among women. It is my contention that the dismantling of the multipurpose village tunnels insulated women from one another, from their established methods for learning and means for building influence and authority, and from intimate engagement with the expanding mercantilist economy and equitable access to social and economic resources.