Visiting the Pacific Northwest from Norway last week were members of the Gaup family, who met with our group in Tacoma after performing at Chief Leschi School. It was a magical evening of stories, yoik, and new friendships.
Risten’s father Ánte Mikkel, the reknowned yoiker, just won the Norwegian Sámi Parliament’s Sámi Language Motivation Prize for 2013 (for his work as an author, yoiker, and teacher). A engaging performer, he taught us about the history of yoik and demonstrated its variability. He even took requests, recalling various yoiks for the fox, for example. With a rapt audience and seemingly tireless performers, we could have spent the whole evening there.
Yoik cannot be defined; it must be experienced, but this explanation helps:
For the singer, the yoik is a way to process and release emotions. It is a release and a cleansing where one can express emotions inexpressible in words. A yoik creates a telepathic link to the story or person it features. Many men have won a wife for themselves by using the yoik.
There is no way to experience the power of the yoik except to listen to it. Its natural character and the voices of the natural elements do not become apparent until the listener has thrown himself upon the winds.
The yoik has survived through the centuries. It has renewed itself and changed its meaning, but it is still indispensible for the Sámi people. To consider the power of the yoik, we need only consider how eagerly outsiders have tried to destroy it. Whether this has been due to fear or to a lust for power remains a mystery. (Ursula Länsman)