Liam Frink’s A Tale of Three Villages is a contribution of theoretical, methodological, and regional significance. Frink partners academic scholarship with indigenous voice to create an important advancement in anthropological approaches to colonial encounters in the Arctic and more universally.
Few scholars have made the effort to establish the necessary breadth of knowledge that spans multiple fields of anthropological inquiry while also developing relationships with local communities. Frink employed participatory field research, oral history, ethnohistory, and archaeology to create nuanced interpretations of social, economic, and cultural shifts during this dynamic period of Yup’ik history that link more broadly to the history of colonialism on a global scale. In the process, Frink set a new standard for holistic research, challenging all in the field to equitably include Native perspectives and community partnerships as part of the research process and scholarly outcome.
Frink identified and systematically explored interdependent, complex historical processes as he tracked intersections between Yup’ik Native Alaskan cohorts and colonial pressures. Frink focused particularly on women and young people in his study, recognizing the power of these social groups to respond to and enact change. As a result, A Tale of Three Villages provides a deeper understanding of the dynamic negotiations and competitions for social, political, and economic benefits to individuals, families, lineages, and groups during the process of colonialism.
A Tale of Three Villages provides new insight into Yup’ik culture specifically but also relates to today’s social negotiations. Frink explored family- and community-scale adaptations to global processes, and the patterns and systems he describes may serve to inform us about the fundamental life processes we too negotiate in our increasingly connected lives.