Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
The Yup'ik and the Inuit peoples of the far North (among others) have long labored under the confusing and misleading label of being called "Eskimos." In fact, there are a wide variety of different peoples and cultures in the far North -- something which an all-inclusive label tends to obscure. This documentary brings the ancient winter dance and drum music of the Yup'ik of Emmonak to the screen. These are a people who live on the Yukon Delta on the Bering Sea. Though their music has been somewhat influenced by the hymns taught to them by missionaries, it retains many of its old elements. Accompanying the music is a narration based on old letters and diaries from missionaries, and archival photos and film. Winter is a time of potlatch, or giveaway, and it is accompanied by dances and songs which tell ancient tribal legends, sometimes in a very dramatic fashion. Even after almost a century of efforts by the churches to exterminate their "pagan" culture, these people demonstrate their resilience in dances and customs.