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A young Yup’ik man from Kipnuk, Alaska, joined TikTok in 2020, making videos of his everyday life living in a rural village just for fun. He couldn’t have predicted what following he would grow.
Martin Paul, 19, has over 140,000 followers and growing.
A majority of his videos are funny Native humor skits, but he also shares what it’s like living in a rural village including his Yup’ik culture and dancing.
Paul says he never imagined his videos would go viral.
“I started just wanting to share the Yup’ik culture, the Native culture on my platform. We have to share our culture to keep it alive, that’s very important, and my account just started growing and growing because people found that kind of thing interesting.”
Martin shares videos of riding on snow machines and four wheelers, the only form of transportation in his village, as well as videos of him going out in negative -20 F weather to get ice.
“In most of rural Alaska, there is no running water still. So what do we do? We get ice. There’s other ways to get water, but at the place I am at right now, Kipnuk, Alaska, we get water from ice.”
As for Paul’s funny Native humor skits, he says he gets his ideas from various places.
“A lot of the skits are do are memories I’ve had in the past, or experiences I’ve had. Or I’d hear a story from my parents or grandparents, and I’d act it out in a way, and just say whatever Is on my mind and the native humor would just come out,” Paul said.
Like this skit about being a Native weather man.
“Native weather report, super windy, the wind is winding, probably about thirty knots with the wind chill of twenty. And it’s slippery so, you know, you gotta be careful, because you might end up slipping into my arms.”
@nativevoiceone @martin.h21 chatted with Jill Fratis from our flagship station #KNBA about his @TikTok channel and high kicking at the #Native ♬ original sound – Native Voice One
Paul finds a balance on his channel sharing funny and informative content, but he says that because of his elders, he wants to make sure sharing his culture goes above all else.
“Well, the elders would always tell me to keep the culture alive. I grew up Yup’ik dancing, and I was always encouraged by my elders to always keep the songs alive, because they go way back and it’s so important to keep it alive basically.”
Paul says the best thing to come out of his channel is when people from all over the world reach out to to say what his videos have done for them.
“Quite a bit of people have told me that, ‘hey your videos make me happy when I’m sad,’ they’d say hey the song you posted was so relatable to me. There were a few people that nearly made me cry they were like ‘your song saved me’ or like your videos, I don’t know. Hearing that it meant so much to me.”
Martin is taking a break from college to be with family and spend time his home town, and continues to share his culture, humor, and life.
Complete with the pen President Joe Biden used to sign the RESPECT Act, U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) recently presented a framed copy of the law to Oglala Sioux President Frank Star Comes Out.
Sen. Rounds sponsored the act.
It repealed eleven laws that, while not enforced, directly discriminated against Native peoples in American legal code.
Among other issues, these laws gave the federal government the right to ignore treaties, take Native children from families for placement in boarding schools, and economically disadvantage Native communities considered “hostile.”
Sen. Rounds said the bill represents a four-year effort.
“It is symbolic, but I think it sends the message that it’s time to turn the table between the federal government and the tribes and show the respect that sometimes has not been shown in the past. It would not have happened if it wasn’t for your work, and the work of a number of other tribes around the United States.”
Star Comes Out is also a representative of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association.
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