The Yupik comprise speakers of four distinct Yupik languages: one originated in the Russian Far East, and the others among the descendants of people who had migrated in western Alaska, South Central Alaska, and along the Gulf of Alaska coast.
Eskimo (or Esquimaux ‹See Tfd› (French)) or Inuit–Yupik (for Alaska: Inupiat–Yupik) is a term for the indigenous peoples who have traditionally inhabited the circumpolar region from eastern Siberia (Russia), across Alaska (United States), Canada, and Greenland (Denmark). Two main groups have historically been referred to as Eskimos by outsiders: the Yupik and Inupiat. A third group, the Aleut, is related. In Canada and Greenland, the people prefer their own names and in Canada, the term “Inuit” is used to cover both the Inuit and Yupiak.
The earliest known Eskimo cultures (pre-Dorset) date to 5,000 years ago. They appear to have evolved in Alaska from people using the Arctic small tool tradition. They probably had migrated to Alaska from Siberia at least 2,000 to 3,000 years earlier, though they might have been in Alaska as far back as 10,000 to 12,000 years or more. There are similar artifacts found in Siberia going back perhaps 18,000 years.
The Yupik language dialects and cultures in eastern Siberia and Alaska have evolved in place, beginning with the original (pre-Dorset) indigenous culture that developed in Alaska. Approximately 4,000 years ago, the Unangan (also known as Aleut) culture became distinctly separate. It is largely considered a non-Eskimo culture.
Approximately 1,500–2,000 years ago, apparently in Northwestern Alaska, two other distinct variations appeared. The Inuit language branch became distinct and, over a period of several hundred years, its people expanded and migrated across northern Alaska, Canada and into Greenland. At about the same time, the technology of the Thule people developed in northwestern Alaska and very quickly spread over the entire area occupied by Eskimo people, though it was not necessarily adopted by all of them.
Today, the two main groups of Eskimo are the Inuit of northern Alaska, Canada and Greenland, and the Yupik of Central Alaska. The Yupik comprise speakers of four distinct Yupik languages: one originated in the Russian Far East, and the others among the descendants of people who had migrated in western Alaska, South Central Alaska, and along the Gulf of Alaska coast.
The term Eskimo is still in common use, and particularly in Alaska, to include both Yupik and Inupiat. No universal term other than Eskimo, inclusive of all Inuit and Yupik people, exists for the Inuit and Yupik peoples. In Canada and Greenland, the term Eskimo has fallen out of favour, as it is sometimes considered pejorative and has been widely replaced by the term Inuit. The Canadian Constitution Act of 1982, sections 25 and 35 recognized the Inuit as a distinctive group of aboriginal peoples in Canada.