yurarrsuutek “pair of dance fans”
Language: Central Yup'ik
Aturairluku un’ keggaacesseng angutet, kegginaqurluteng, nutaan-llu tamakut aturluki feather-alriit tava-ll’. (The boys would remove clothing from the torso, put on a mask, and use the dance fans that have feathers on them.)
—Neva Rivers, 2002
Hand-held fans accentuate the fluid movements of a dancer’s arms. They were used in traditional winter ceremonies and continue as part of contemporary Yup’ik dance regalia. Men’s fans, like this pair, have feathers inserted into wooden hoops.
Region: Southwest Alaska
Object Category: Ceremony
Object Type: Dance fans
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 120929.000
Examining & explaining (1)
Joan Hamilton: They use these [headdresses] during the winter and augkut-ll tegumiarrsuutet [also those things for holding]—
Neva Rivers: Tegumiat-ll’ augkut aturpegnaki yuraraqluta with bare hands, kegginaquaqata taugaam taukut.
(We didn’t use those dance fans, we danced with bare hands, except for when they dance with those masks.)
Joan Hamilton: There was a special time that they use the dance fans. Uksumi-qaa pilallruat [did they do that in the winter]?
Neva Rivers: Kegginaquaqata taugaam taukut.
(Only when they dance with those masks.)
Joan Hamilton: Only when they’re dancing with masks will they use the dance fans.
Neva Rivers: Nutaan apernarianka angalkut taugaam ivarutaitneng aturaqameng tamakut nutaan tegumiat-ll’ imkut boys-at aturluki. Aturairluku un’ keggaacesseng angutet, kegginaqurluteng, nutaan-llu tamakut aturluki feather-alriit tava-ll’.
(Now is the time to mention shamans, but when they sang their songs the boys would use the dance fans. The boys would remove clothing from the torso, put on a mask, and use the dance fans that have feathers on them.)
Joan Hamilton: Those men’s dance fans.
Neva Rivers: They used the same nassqurrun [headdress], the same necklaces. Naquggluteng [they put on a belt]. That’s the time naquggcaaqluteng [they put belt on], because they’ll dance very hard in that one spot.
Angalkut evaruciaritneng atuqatarluteng. Negiliteng-llu makut augarluki. Maaggun makunun qaspernun light-alriamun elliluki nutaan. Anglkuut ivarutaitneng aturluteng. Kegginaquraqameng taugaam tauna atuluku. Kegginaqut-llu cali makut pilituluki. Taum cali nalliini cali kegginaqut once a year atutuluuki.
(They are going to dance to the song that a shaman composed. They remove their ruff. This way they transfer to light materials like the kuspuk.(2) They used the shaman’s composition. That would be used when they are going to dance with masks. They would make the masks too. At that time the masks would be worn once a year.)
Joan Hamilton: There was a ceremony once a year where the shaman directed them on how to make the mask, and he composed the songs. They learned the songs, then they got together and they practiced the movements.
Neva Rivers: Nutaan tauna arulaciiraa nallaruutuq to his song.
(That dance movement is the right one to his song.)
Joan Hamilton: The angakuq [shaman] would see somebody’s movement for a particular word and he would say, “Yes, finally, that’s the one I want to use to depict this word.” And that’s how they used these and for the masks and for the dance fans.
John Phillip, Sr.: Uksuarmi wani Qaariitaarnilartut. Taum nallini kegginaqurluteng wani Qaariitaarluteng agayuliluteng-gguq. Nunamteni tuaten pilallruut. Augutun ava-i taruyamaurucirluteng yuratullruut augkut uksuarmi. Apeqmegnek Qaariitaam nallini kegginaqurluteng-wa qaralirluki. Makut maa-i kegginaqut wiinga meaning-aarit tuaten taum kegginaqum uksuarmi Qaariitaami atulallruit wiinga nutaan tua-i tuani tangvallruunga wii Qaariitaam nallini.
(In the fall they had Qaariitaaq [old-time festival with masks].(4) At Qaariitaaq they used masks and prayed. That is what they did in my village. That is how they danced in the fall with those dance fans. At the time of what they now call Qaariitaaq [Halloween/October] they used masks that were decorated. I have watched them dance in the fall, what we now call Qaariitaaq with masks, but I don’t really know the meaning of the masks.)
Tua-i tamakulek yurarluteng cani. Augutun qanemcinguarluteng, calinguarluteng pilallruut. Augna tangvalqa tangvallruaqa tua-i tuaten. Makut maa-i kegginaqut piciatun aturyaraunrilnganateng wangni tuaten qanrutkanka wii wani-wa.
(They danced those like that. They told stories with those, pretended to work. I watched that happen like that. Seems to me the masks weren’t just used at any time so I am telling what I know.)
Neva Rivers: Augukut taugaam wii pillrenka kegginaqussuutnguut.
(The ones I did were with the use of masks.)
John Phillip, Sr.: Yurapiaraqameng kegginaquurnek atuurpeknateng yuratullruut yurapiarluteng. Taugaam augumek apqemegnek agayuaqameng kegginaqirluteng pitullruut. Tuacetun tua-i augkunek-llu tua-i nutaan taruyamaarutnek aturluteng canguarluteng augutun qanemcirpetun yuralaucirpetun. Tuacetun tua-i tamana wii nallunrilucimcetun wani-wa. Wangkuta-llu tua augutun qanlerpetun missionary-put tekitellermegni tauten tamana assiikevkenaku tua-i taqevkarluki.
(When they had a real dance they wouldn’t use masks but had a real dance.(5) But the one they call Agayuaqameng [when they pray] they would use their mask.(6) They would do it that way and they would finally use the dance fans pretending to do things as you told, the way you dance. I know it is done that way. Like you have said when our missionaries came they didn’t like that and made us quit.)
[From discussions with Joan Hamilton (Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center and Museum), Virginia Minock, John Phillip, Sr. and Neva Rivers at the National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian, 4/22/2002-4/26/2002. Also participating: Aron L. Crowell, William Fitzhugh, and Stephen Loring (NMNH), Suzi Jones (Anchorage Museum), and Ann Fienup-Riordan.]
1. From discussion of headdress E127329.
2. A qaspeq is a “thin hooded garment, usually of cloth, worn as a parka cover, as a jacket or dress;” also spelled (Anglicized) kuspuk (Jacobson 1984).
3. From discussion of headdress E127329.
4. Qaariitaaq is “an old-time festival held in late October” with “masked participants;” and “although this festival predates contact with Europeans, the name has been adopted for Halloween” or “October” (Jacobson 1984). Qaariitaaq is also described as “a ceremony in the fall after freeze-up when children with painted faces visit house-to-house receiving food and water” (Fienup-Riordan 2005).
5. A Yurapiaq—literally, “real dance”—is a “long story dance performed by women (Fienup-Rirodan 1996). Yuraq is “Eskimo dance; a dance in the traditional Eskimo style” (Jacobson 1984). Yuraq is also defined as a “generic term for Yup’ik dancing” and “is used to distinguish arula dances, consisting of both verses and a chorus” (Fienup-Riordan 1996).
6. Agayuyaraq means “way of making prayer; dancing with masks requesting abundance in the coming season, held in late February or early March” (Fienup-Riordan 2005).
The traditional winter ceremony called Kelek—also called Qaariitaaq,Itruka’ar, Agayuyaraq, orthe Inviting-In Feast—was held in the qasgiq [men’s community house] to honor the spirits of game animals and to request their return to nourish the community.(1) Men and women danced to drumming and songs, some wearing masks and all holding tegumiat [dance fans, finger masks] that accentuated the fluid, graceful motions of their arms.(2) Elder Wassilie Berlin remembered, “And the dancer would move with the rhythm, using body and arm movements to illustrate the story portrayed in the song.”(3)
Men’s fans, like this pair, have snowy owl feathers inserted into hoops made of split willow root. Traditional women’s finger masks had carved, painted wooden faces of animals or spirits that were encircled by caribou hair and adorned with feather plumes. In contemporary dance, women use circular dance fans made of coiled grass, also ornamented with caribou hair and feathers.
1. Fienup-Riordan 1994:304-323, 1996:40-41; Michael 1967:228; Morrow 1984:136-39; Nelson 1899:358-59
2. Fienup-Riordan 1996:112-16, 2005:237-42; Hawkes 1913:12; Lantis 1947:93; Meade and Fienup-Riordan 2005:299-303; Nelson 1899:412-15
3. Meade and Fienup-riordan 2005:301
4. (Fienup-Riordan 1996:112, 2005:237-42