Language: Upper Koyukon
Language: Central Koyukon
Region: Yukon River, Alaska
Object Category: Clothing
Object Type: Tunic
Accession Date: 1869
Source: W. H. Dall (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E007607
Identifying & explaining
Eliza Jones: It wouldn’t be a doll dress, so I would say model dress.(2) This looks like a model of a winter parka with the fur turned in. And, again this wouldn’t be a practical everyday-wear parka, but maybe something they would use for celebration because of all this fringing. They did all this fringing just because it’s a model. But it would be a parka worn in the winter because of the fur being inside. And it’s got a piece of hide sewn around the bottom. Up here too [bottom of yoke above bead fringe].
Judy Woods: There’s more on the back, look.
Eliza Jones: Nicely made.
Judy Woods: Mm-hmm.
Eliza Jones: Look at how the caribou skin is sewed around the neck. And traditionally these [fringe] wouldn’t be beads, they would be fur, these fancy decorations around here [yoke].
Judy Woods: Tlekk.
Eliza Jones: Yes, nedenaadletlekk [it is fringed]. Normally, these would be the fringed caribou. But I guess since this is a model, they used beads. And it looks like they dyed this [skin] with something red, maybe kk’es. Kk’es is “alder.” It makes a really dark red dye.
Judy Woods: That’s what they use for moose mittens and stuff. They dye them with that alder. They leave it in water, bark and stuff, and it turns orange, then they soak them and it makes them, any of that moosekin stuff, dyes it this color.
Trimble Gilbert: What kind of fur is that [inside tunic]?
Judy Woods: Looks like muskrat or marten.
Eliza Jones: This is red. It’s not muskrat, too red. It’s not mountain squirrel. Mountain squirrel wouldn’t be red. How about ground hog?
Trimble Gilbert: Groundhog is different too. Groundhog is grey.
Eliza Jones: It wouldn’t’ be reindeer.
Trimble Gilbert: Maybe young one.
Eliza Jones: Maybe it’s an unborn animal of some kind, maybe caribou. I think it’s an unborn calf.
Trimble Gilbert: Yes, caribou or moose. The tail is right there.
Eliza Jones: Oh, could be, yes, because this is the—
Trimble Gilbert: White.
Eliza Jones: Yes, around the tail. So unborn fawn, caribou fawn.
[From discussion with Phillip Arrow, Trimble Gilbert, Eliza Jones and Judy Woods at the National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian, 5/17/2004-5/21/2004. Also participating: Aron Crowell (NMNH), Kate Duncan (Arizona State University) and Suzi Jones (AMHA).]
1. In this entry, the Elders speak in different Athabascan dialects: Phillip Arrow, Deg Xinag; Trimble Gilbert, Gwich’in; Eliza Jones, Central Koyukon; and Judy Woods, Upper Koyukon.
2. This type of garment is called a parka, dress, or tunic.
This is a model or doll’s version of a Koyukon woman’s tunic, collected by William H. Dall along the Yukon River in 1867.(1) There is a matching pair of moccasin trousers (see Related Objects).
Among all Athabascan peoples, women’s tunics were longer than men’s (coming down to the ankles) and they were usually cut straight across the bottom in front or sometimes in both front and back, as on this example.(2) The bottoms of men’s tunics were generally pointed in both front and back.
The fur has been left on the skin of the tunic and turned to the inside, representing a garment that would be worn during winter. Beaded tassels hang from the chest, front, sides, and lower hem.
1. Dall 1870
2. Vanstone 1981:8-10