Archival Film: Uksuum Cauyai (The Drums of Winter)

Two women, dressed for winter, dancing with feathers

Sarah Elder, Leonard Kamerling
1988 | 90 minutes
Country of Production: USA
Country and Culture Featured: USA, Yup'ik
Director in Attendance

Elders in the Yup’ik village of Emmonak, Alaska, on the Bering Sea coast prepare for a potlatch ceremony revealing the resilience of the community’s rich music, dance, and spiritual traditions. Following a screening of the film, director Sarah Elder discusses her groundbreaking “community collaborative” model of filmmaking, developed over many years working with Alaska Native communities.

Co-presented by NYU Center for Media, Culture and History, Mother Tongue Film Festival, and Documentary Educational Resources, which is celebrating 50 years since its founding


Resilience in Motion | In Their Own Words

“Deeming it devil worship, the Christian missionaries in the late 1800s banned Alaska Native Yup’ik dancing. By the 1960s, with the impact of boarding schools and suppression of the Yup’ik language, Yup’ik dance had almost disappeared. The singers and dancers in Drums of Winter show remarkable commitment and resilience as they practice through long winter nights to maintain their ancient dances. Their resistance amid cultural assimilation is profound. Today some 40 years after the making of the film, Yup’ik dance flourishes in a remarkable renaissance.”

– Sarah Elder | Director, Drum of Winter