2024 Cama-i Living Treasure: Atrilnguq Joseph Asuluk, Sr.

Joe Asuluk (center) Eskimo dancing. photo by Jimmie Lincoln

by Nicholai Joekay


Atrilnguq Joseph Asuluk of Nunakauyaq or Toksook Bay is being recognized as a Living Treasure at the Cama-i Dance Festival this year. This article will share some of the ways that Atrilnguq has contributed to the legacy of dance in our region.

Atrilnguq began yuraq in his younger years in the 1950s, when he was presented to the community in the traditional Yup’ik way with his yuraqerraaq, or first dance. He shared that this traditional event benefitted the especially vulnerable population in the community – widows and orphans, who were given gifts of clothing and food.

For decades, he has worked collaboratively with others in his community to plan annual yurarpak or dance gatherings in his community, carrying on the tradition of his ancestors.

Legacy work

Atrilnguq’s work in his community has been described as “tireless” by many who have the privilege to know him. He has taken on the responsibilities of leadership in governance, spirituality, advocacy, and freely shares his wisdom and knowledge at various gatherings and events. He encourages and helps to create opportunities for young leaders to practice and develop their skills in his community.

Purpose: Yuraq brings joy to our community.

Dances are intercessions to the Creator. Yurat kaigatnguut – is how Atrilnguq describes the art of dance. He also shares that yuraq brings joy to everyone. The apalluqs or verses of songs can be used to bring humor to our lives through storytelling. “Joy is medicine when we are not feeling ourselves.”