In August, annuġaaksrat annuġarriaksrat turġutilaaŋat naammaguuruq (fur gathered for winter parkas is just right, the thickness of fur is just right). August-mi (in August), last part of July.
—Jane Brower, 2002
Iñupiat who lived on the coast traded sea mammal hides and blubber to interior villages in exchange for the pelts of caribou, wolves, wolverines, foxes, and mountain sheep. The sheepskins used for this man’s Arctic coast parka probably came from the Brooks Range. Men’s parkas were shorter than women’s and cut straight across on the bottom. The ruff around the hood has three layers of fur consisting of wolverine, wolf belly, and wolf back, from the inner layer to the outer, respectively. The dark-colored manusiñiq (tusk-shaped gores on the chest) are made of caribou fur and the bottom of the coat is trimmed with wolverine.
Region: Northwest Alaska
Object Category: Clothing
Dimensions: Length 20cm
Accession Date: 1892
Source: J. H. Turner (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E153734
Ron Brower, Sr.: This parka is made out of sheepskin.
Aron Crowell: Is this the right style for a Barrow parka?
Jane Brower: Almost, yes.
Ron Brower, Sr.: If it’s mountain sheep, it’s probably from inland villages. Unless they went up there. This design is pretty much North Slope.
Jane Brower: Taamna iluqaan amiiqxugu niaqua nasaġivluguasii.
(And this head part is used for the hood.)
Ron Brower, Sr.: When you’re skinning the animal, you remove the head too because it’s used as the hood for the parka.
Jane Brower: Qatiqtaamiglu upinġaami. In August annuġaaksrat annuġarriaksrat turġutilaaŋat naammaguuruq.
August-mi, last part of July.
(And white fur in the summer. In August fur is gathered just right for winter parkas, the thickness of the fur is just right. In August, last part of July.)
Ron Brower, Sr.: Most of the animals that are caught that are going to be used for clothing are taken during the last part of July and in August so that the fur is at the right thickness for use in clothing. This one would be the outer parka, and a person would be wearing caribou skin clothing¾normally caribou fawn skin¾on the inner side.
Aron Crowell: What are the different furs that are on that parka?
Ron Brower, Sr.: The brown hair [inner hood ruff] is wolverine. This [middle hood ruff] looks like the belly side of the wolf, and this [outer hood ruff] is from the back of the wolf. It’s a layer of three. The pattern [gore] on the side [neck] that you see here, this brown pattern is caribou.
Jane Brower: Manusiñiq.
Ron Brower, Sr.: And this [body] is mountain sheep. Then the bottom [hem] is trimmed with wolverine. And we noticed that for the side down here [hood], normally the fur on the head of the animal will become your hood. This one has the head partly removed, so they’ve added fur from the belly side of the mountain sheep to complete the hood.
Aron Crowell: So it’s a man’s parka?
Ron Brower, Sr.: Mm-hmm.
Kenneth Toovak: Allakaaguraaqługik ukuak manusiñiŋik aġnavlu aŋutivlu allak.
(There are these different styles of parka gores for men and women.)
Ron Brower, Sr.: Qanuq samma allanvak?
(How are they different?)
Jane Brower: Avuunaq paaġruk itchuitchuk uvuŋa tavra pisuitchuk. Taamnaasi manusiñiq.
(It [gore width] doesn’t go that far from here to there [for men’s]. This parka gore is placed right there [straight length].)
Ron Brower, Sr.: The design that we’re talking about here is called a manusiñiq [parka gore]. This design here [strips of dark skin below neck]. For women, it’s a little bit wider and has a more of a curve to it. For men, it’s normally pretty much straight like this one is.
Aron Crowell: And would it be appropriate for whaling? Is it something you’d wear out on the ice?
Ron Brower, Sr.: Aŋuniaġunnauva? Aġviqsiuġaunaunayaqpa naumi?
(Is this for hunting? Would this be a whaling parka or not?)
Jane Brower: When they’re hunting anything. They used to have a double parka, fur in and fur out. Ukiuqsiutit tainnaitchuurut [winter parkas are made that way].(2)
Kenneth Toovak: I think there’s a lot of fur inside [parkas]. When there’s a blizzard that’s good to stow.
Ron Brower, Sr.: This would be more of a winter coat.
Ron Brower, Sr.: It’s been scraped the traditional way, and all the holes have been patched the traditional way.
Karen Brewster: What’s the traditional way?
Ron Brower, Sr.: You use a skin scraper and remove the membrane, and then you wet it down, so that you can soften it. Let it sit overnight.
Jane Brower: You try to make soft with your hands.
Ron Brower, Sr.: You knead it. You finish scraping it and as you scrape it, it just starts to dry. And as it’s drying, you knead it. You make it supple and soft.
[From discussion with Jane Brower, Ron Brower, Sr. (Iñupiat Heritage Center), Doreen Simmonds (Commission on Iñupiaq History, Language & Culture) and Kenneth Toovak at the National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian, 2/04/2002-2/06/2002. Also participating: Karen Brewster, Wanda Chin and Terry Dickey (University of Alaska Museum) and Aron Crowell (NMNH).]
1. According to Iñupiaq Elder Martha Aiken, a manusiñiq is a white or black (in contrast to color of the surrounding fur), tusk-shaped design down the sides of a parka neck on the front and sometimes on the back.
2. According to Martha Aiken, this type of parka is called an qusuŋŋaq “outer parka fur outside.” It was made from any kind of skin with the fur side facing out and made fancy or plain. An atigi is an “inner parka fur inside, fur-in parka” and is also called an atigipiaq (literally “real parka”). An atikłuk is a “cloth outer parka.”
The atigi or parka (a word of western Siberian-Russian origin) is a hooded, loose-fitting garment worn by both men and women. New and traditional designs are still made in Northwest Alaska today. This man’s parka of the late 19th century is made of mountain sheep skin, obtained by coastal Iñupiat through trade connections to interior villages in the mountainous Brooks Range.
Historically, parkas were sewn from a variety of pelts—caribou or reindeer, ground squirrel, muskrat, marmot, mink, fox, mountain sheep and lynx, as well as from bird skins with the feathers left on.(1) Prior to the introduction of reindeer on the Seward Peninsula in 1892, Iñupiaq people traded across Bering Strait with Siberian Chukchi herders for white or spotted reindeer skin, which was used for making fancy parkas.(2) North coast Iñupiat traded with interior villages for caribou hides, as well as other animal skins such as wolf, wolverine, mountain sheep and fox.(3) Caribou and reindeer were often taken in the summer when the skins weighed less and the hair was finer and shorter.
(4) These light skins were used to make fancy clothing and inner garments.(5) Plain parkas for everyday wear and for colder weather were made from heavier fall and winter skins.(6) Women sewed parkas with thread made from the sinew of caribou, reindeer, whale and walrus.(7)
In very cold weather, two parkas were worn. The inner one would be of bird skins or animal pelts with the hair turned inward, while the outer one would be made of pelts with the hair side out.(8) In summer, people wore light-weight parkas or older, worn-out ones with the fur facing to the outside.(9) Waterproof hooded parkas made from seal intestines or fish skin were put on as a top layer to protect against rain or driving snow.(10) When cloth became available from Western traders, people began wearing cotton outer parkas to protect their fur garments from snow.(11) They took care to shake or beat the snow from an unprotected fur parka before entering a warm house, using a long, flattened piece of ivory, bone or antler. This prevented the fur from becoming wet, which over time would cause the hair to fall out.
Similar parka patterns were used over wide areas of Northwest Alaska, but always with a distinct difference between men’s and women’s styles.(13) A man’s parka—like the one pictured here—was shorter than a woman’s, extending only to the hip or mid-thigh with a flared, straight, or slightly rounded bottom edge that was sometimes slightly longer in the back.(14) The bottom of a woman’s parka usually came down to, or below, the knee, with slits up the sides and U-shaped front and back flaps.(15) Parkas for both sexes were trimmed at the bottom, wrist and shoulder with fur, often wolf or wolverine.(16) The hood of a winter parka was usually trimmed with a fur ruff made from wolverine or wolf, or a combination of the two. When the hood was drawn up, the long hairs of the ruff projected around the wearer’s face, shielding it from the cold wind. These furs have the important quality of shedding moisture from the wearer’s breath so that ice does not build up around the edge of the hood.(17)
At the neck, both men’s and women’s parkas usually had narrow, triangular inserts, or gores, that extended part way down the front, as on this example. These gores attached the base of the hood to the front of the parka.(18) Most gores were made from white short-haired caribou or reindeer skin that usually contrasted with the darker fur of the rest of the parka.(19)
Parkas for special occasions were ornamented with strips of skin sewn into patterns of contrasting colors.(20) White parts of the design were made of caribou or scraped, winter-tanned sealskin; reddish elements were alder-dyed sealskin; and darker pieces could be caribou, seal or wolf-fish.(21) Tufts of red wool and sometimes beads were also added.(22) During important gatherings such as the Messenger Feast, people wore their best parkas for dancing in the community house and receiving guests, and fancy ones were given as gifts.(23)
Men and boys wore belts around their parkas, often made from a wolverine skin with its feet, tail and sometimes head still attached.
(24) In the Barrow area, most men wore eagle feathers or ermine skins on the backs of their parkas, which may have been charms as well an ornaments.(25)
1. Beechey 1831:284; Bruce 1894:106; Cantwell 1889:84; Dall 1870:22; Gordon 1906:78; Kelly 1890:17; Michael 1967:110; Murdoch 1892:110, 116; Nelson 1899:31, 35; Ray 1966:35-36; Simpson 1875:242, 244; Thornton 1931:16
2. Gordon 1906:78; Michael 1967:110; Ray 1966:35
3. Nelson 1892:109; Spencer 1959:203-4
4. Burch 1975b:3; Murdoch 1892:109; Nelson 1899:35; Ray 1966:35; Ray (1984), p. 289
5. Murdoch 1892:109
6. Murdoch 1892:109, 115, 119; Nelson 1899:35; Simpson 1875:244; Thornton 1931:33
7. Gordon 1906:79; Nelson 1899:110
8. Cantwell 1889:83; Dall 1870:22; Kelly 1890:16-17; Murdoch 1892:111, 113; Nelson 1899:35; Ray 1966:35; Simpson 1875:241
9. Cantwell 1889:84; Nelson 1899:35; Oquilluk 1973:239; Ray 1966:35, 39; Simpson 1875:244; Thornton 1931:32
10. Gordon 1906:78; Murdoch 1892:111; Nelson 1899:36; Thornton 1931:32-33
11. Bockstoce 1977:74; Murdoch 1892:111, 120; Ray 1966:36; Thornton 1931:16
12. Bockstoce 1977:74; Nelson 1899:77-78; Thornton 1931:16-17
13. Bruce 1894:109-110; Kelly 1890:17; Murdoch 1892:110, 115, 120; Nelson 1899:30-31; Simpson 1875:244
14. Bruce 1894:110; Dall 1870:141; Michael 1967:110; Murdoch 1892:110-111, 113; Nelson 1899:34; Ray 1966:35; Simpson 1875:241
15. Bruce 1894:110; Cantwell 1889:84; Dall 1870:22, 141; Kelly 1890:17; Michael 1967:110; Murdoch 1892:111; Nelson 1899:30, 35; Ray 1966:37; Simpson 1875:244; Thornton 1931:34
16. Dall 1870:21-22; Gordon 1906:78; Michael 1967:110; Murdoch 1892:110, 114, 116; Nelson 1899:30-31: Ray 1966:35-36; Simpson 1875:241
17. Cantwell 1889:84; Dall 1870:22, 141; Kelly 1890:16; Michael 1967:110; Murdoch 1892:114, 115, 116; Nelson 1899:30-31, 35; Oquilluk 1973:239; Ray 1966:35-36; Simpson 1875:241; Spencer 1959:269; Thornton 1931:34
18. Issenman 1997:26, 137; Murdoch 1892:113, 115, 116; Nelson 1899:30-31, 35; Simpson 1875:241
19. Murdoch 1892:115; Nelson 1899:30-31, 35; Simpson 1875:241
20. Bruce 1894:100; Dall 1870:141, 153; Murdoch 1892:110, 114-116, 365; Nelson 1899:35-36; Ray 1966:35; Simpson 1875:244; Spencer 1959:221
21. Dall 1870:22, 141; Murdoch 1892:110, 114; Nelson 1899:36, 117
22. Murdoch 1892:110, 114; Nelson 1899:35
23. Dall 1870:151-153; Murdoch 1892:365, 374; Nelson 1899:362, 365, 367-369; Simpson 1875: 262; Spencer 1959:214, 221, 223
24. Dall 1890:152; Murdoch 1892:138; Nelson 1899:62; Rainey 1947:264; Simpson 1875:241; Thornton 1931:35
25. Murdoch 1892:138; Simpson 1875:242