COUNTRY: U.S. (Yupik)
“Ivory Carving” is a chant and melody from the Yupik People, a group of indigenous peopls who mainly live in the northern United States, in Alaska, and in Russia’s Far East. They are related to the Inuit.
The original version of this song is called “How Much Will I Get for the Ivory Carving.” Its lyrics are “vocables,” which are sounds in a song that are used to replace lyrics. The liner notes of the Smithsonian Folkways album on which All Around This World first heard this song suggest that the Yupik community knows the narrative associated with this melody so well that actual lyrics aren’t necessary. We’d sure love to hear the story! You can listen here.
The Yupik, and Inuit, are sometimes referred to as “eskimos.” As this NPR report explains, “unless you’re native to the circumpolar region, the short answer is: You probably shouldn’t use the word Eskimo.”