“bentwood hat, conical wooden hat”
Language: Central Yup'ik
Makucit pissurcuutekait makut imarpigmi qayanun. Una-ni wani cikut waten ayuqngata ayuqelingnaqluki. (These are all used for hunting in the ocean on the kayak. Since the ice looks the way it does, they tried to make them look like ice.)
—John Phillip, Sr., 2002
Men wore conical bentwood hats for hunting seals amid floating sea ice. According to John Phillip Sr., the pointed shape was to make the hats “look like ice,” disguising the hunter. They were decorated with feathers, paint, or ivory carvings, which here include a seal and several long, toothy fish. The fish are marked with nucleated circles, a symbol of enhanced spiritual vision and of the movement of people and animals between levels of the cosmos. Hats provided protection against weather and waves and collected sound from the watery environment, improving the hunter’s ability to hear.
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length 46cm
Accession Date: 1910
Source: U.S. Department of Interior (donor)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E260555
Joan Hamilton: Cameng aprutengqerta una?
(What is this named?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Igaugnek makut pilarait. Elqianek-llu pilarnatait aipaagni cali.
(They call this kind igaugnek [eyeshades]. I think they also call these elqiaq [visor].)
Joan Hamilton: Elitaqan?
(Do you recognize it?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Makunek wangkuta piyuitukut. Nunivaarmiutaat-wa makut, ai?
(We don’t have this. These are from Nunivak, yes?)
Joan Hamilton: Atam makut, kenegnarqeksagarr
(Look at this [ivory], so beautiful.)
John Phillip, Sr.: Ii-i. Una tua-i qaralilirturalallrulliniit Nunivaarmiut.
(Yes. The people of Nunivak always made decorations.)
Joan Hamilton: Nunivaarmiut [people from Nunivak Island] are well known for their well-developed artistic skills. We always tease them that they just fall out of bed and there’s their food, that’s why they can afford to be so artistic. But the intricate artwork like this tends to be Nunivaarmiut.
Cakicinek tua aturlallruyiici?
(What kind did you use?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Tua waten ayuqell, cugtunruluteng.
(There were like this, but they were taller.)
Aron Crowell: How are the hats from Kongiganak different?
John Phillip, Sr.: (Indicates a more triangular shape.) Almost just like that but it’s higher. Takenruluki [they were longer], taller.
Aron Crowell: Did you also put ivory seals on it or other animals?
John Phillip, Sr.: Tamakuitelartut augkut piit tanglallrenka.
(The ones I used to see didn’t have that kind.)
Joan Hamilton: Cameng taugaam qaralirluki pilill?
(What kinds of decorations did they make?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Qaralingqeqsailngatut taugaam urasqameng mingumaluteng.
(Maybe they weren’t decorated but painted with white-gray clay.)
Joan Hamilton: Ii-i [yes]. They’re just plain and painted with the paint that’s in that area. What you’re trying to do is camouflage. You don’t want to startle a seal.
John Phillip, Sr.: Makucit pissurcuutekait makut imarpigmi qayanun. Una-ni wani cikut waten ayuqngata ayuqelingnaqluki.
(These are all used for hunting in the ocean on the kayak. Since the ice looks the way it does, they tried to make them look like ice.)
Joan Hamilton: This is patterned after the ice pieces out in the ocean.
Aron Crowell: The shape of the hat?
Joan Hamilton: Yes, sometimes when you look at the ice out on the sea, it’ll look like that.
John Phillip, Sr.: Kinguanun qayami yaavet piluku qillrulluuku matumek ici-w’. Nutaan tangraqameng-gguq taumek alluki pissutuluki.
(They tie it behind them on the rear of the kayak and you know this [hat strap]. They said when they finally see [a seal] that they would put it on and hunt them.)
Joan Hamilton: Yes, it’s like camouflaging, so they look like part of the terrain of ice.
John Phillip, Sr.: Tamakut tamaa-i pitui tuaten. Cikunguartelluku qamiquteng ullagaqamegteki ugtat pitullruit. Tua-ll’ yuk tauna pingqerrluni tamakucimek, seal-amek tangerrquni wani ellii ullakataquni wiinga uitaciqua. Taum taugaam tamakulgem ullagciqaa.
(That is what they did with those like that. They wanted their head to look like part of the ice when they approached the seals on the ice, so that is what they would do.
If I was with a person who had that kind and we saw a seal, he would be the one to approach the seal and I would stay. Only the person that had that kind of hat would approach the seal.)
Joan Hamilton: Mana-mi cauga?
(What about this part [white strips], what is it?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Tuluq. Una taugaam imna wani napam qeltii.
(Ivory. This here is bark.)
Joan Hamilton: This [main hat material] is wood. Mana-mi [what about this (chin strap)]?
John Phillip, Sr.: Muragaq, qeltii, qecik. Sealskin, katagyailkutii. Seal-at-wa tua piciatun tamakulilariit makunek-ll’ seal.
(Wood, bark, skin. Sealskin, the thing that prevents it from falling off [chin strap].
They used different types of seal to make those.)
Joan Hamilton: Muracakucim?
(What kind of wood?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Perrluki makunek.
(They bend them [the wood].
Joan Hamilton: Cameng mingungqerta mana [what is this colored with]? I’ll bet you it’s some kind of artificial paint.
John Phillip, Sr.: Urasqanek ayuquq waten urasqat tanglallrenka like that.
(The ones I used to see looked like white-gray clay, and it looks like that like that [hunting hat E038717].)
Joan Hamilton: Una-m’ caunguarta?
(What is this [central piece] imitating?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Seal, issuriungurtelluku tua-i [that’s imitating a spotted seal] or something like that.
Joan Hamilton: Una-mi caugat-gguq makut? Nequuq-qaa?
(What are these [side pieces]? Is it fish?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Makut-wa qaraliqlikait makut. Tua-r wani neqcuar. Imarpigmiutaat augkut takluteng imarpigmi pitangqelartut waten makucinek. Nepartetuluteng.
(These are probably the decorations here. Seems like it is a small fish. The ocean has long ones that are like this. They stick on something.)
Aron Crowell: Those are real or are those are creatures from stories?
Joan Hamilton: They’re real ones, but then this is an artistic interpretation of those. But then you would have to speak to Nunivakmiut [people of Nunivak], they’d have a better idea.
Joan Hamilton: Qaill aturluku? Waten-qaa?
(How is it worn? Like this [short end in front]?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Other way.
Joan Hamilton: Used this way [longer end in front].
John Phillip, Sr.: Yes.
Joan Hamilton: Kinkut-gguq makucineng aturlallruat? Angutet-qaa taugaam?
(Who wore these? Only men wore these?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Angutet taugaam. Pissurcuutnguut makut anguutet taugaam makuneng atutuut. Qayalget makunek taqneret.
(Only men. These are for hunting, and only men wore these.
Those adults who had kayaks.)
Joan Hamilton: Nutaan-qaa elimariaqavet makucimeng aturyuumaluten? Kitum tua waten aatavet tangerrluten qaill ayuqellren. Nutaan-llu-qaa nacar.
(Only when you become an expert you are able to use this kind? When you become an expert. Someone sees you, maybe your dad sees how good you are. Then finally a hat.)
John Phillip, Sr.: Yes, wiinga. Elitnaurluta tua tangvaurluki tangvaurtelluni pilartuq waten. Tangvauraassqelluni utaqaluni pissullrani kinguani arulairtelluta wangkuta.
(Yes, for me. We learn by watching, so he lets us watch him. He tells us to watch him as we wait while he hunts, so he stops us as we stay behind.)
Joan Hamilton: After you develop a certain skill level—like his father or grandfather would see that he’s developed a certain level of skill in hunting—then he can use these in hunting himself.
But before he gets to this point, he’s still learning. And the man who wears this will tell him, “Watch and see what I do, and learn from what I do.” And when he’s learned enough of the animal behavior, then he can wear this and go out hunting.
John Phillip, Sr.: Tamarmeng pingqellriarunritut yuut, taugaam ilait wani tanglallruanka. Piliyugngalriit-wa tua pilallilriit tamakunek alrapangqeraqluteng. Tamarmeng angutet pivkenateng.
(Not all people have this kind, but I used to see some with them. Only the ones who were able to make them would have them, and they would have them on their back. Not all men had one.)
Joan Hamilton: Kingkut tua pilallruat?
(Then who would have them?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Tua-wa augkut apaurluunka ilait tamakungqellrullinilriit tamakut, ataaka-ll’ piinani. Augkut pitatai pivkenaki.
Tuaken ayagluki tangenrillruanka ava-i wii makucit nunamteni. Amllenrilngurnek wii tangellruunga qamigaryaurtellemni.
(Some of my grandfathers had them, just some had them, even my dad didn’t have one. His peers didn’t have one. Starting from his age group, I quit seeing them in my village. I didn’t see very many when I started going seal hunting.)
Making & giving
Joan Hamilton: Kitum’um makucit piliallrui? Aatavet-qaa piliyaraaten wallu-q’?
(Who made this kind of hat? Would your dad have made one for you or what?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Angukaraurluut-wa tua, ii-i. Angukaraurluut taugaam nallunrilameng pilituut makunek.
(Yes, the old men. The old men knew how, so they made them.)
Joan Hamilton: But he’d be watching, because there will come a time when he’ll be the one making these for the younger generation.
Aron Crowell: Are they passed down through families?
Joan Hamilton: Iliini tau taqneret qamigayuirutlalriit. Tua-llu-qaa una-qaa cikiuteqsaraa?
(Sometime later the Elders quit going seal hunting. Would they give this away?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Tua-wa kingu, waten wani makut wani akluteng akallaat umyuameng taugaam pikaitnun tuntuit. Piciatun pivkenaki taumun pissqumaluki kinguvarcetlariit iliini ici-w’ yuut murilkelaqait assirluku taum wani tegumiaqerkaukaku take care-ararkaukaku tangvallermikun taum tunyugngaa tua-i tuaten. Ici-w’ kinguvarcelluku. Iliini tua-i qetunraminun-llu piukuniu wallu usruminun piukuniu, wallu kinguqliminun piukuniu. Taugken wani tunenritaqatki wani tuquaqata wani agarrluki wani cali pitullruit tuaten.
(Well later on, he would give the old things to someone he chooses, whomever he wishes to give. They don’t just give to it to anyone, but they choose someone who would take care of the item, saying that this person would take care of the item, that is how they did it. They give it to descendants. If he wants to give it to his son, he would, or his sister’s children or his younger siblings, he would give it to one of them. When they don’t give it away, when they have died, they would hang them here.)
Joan Hamilton: And in case he hasn’t given it away when he’s alive, then when he’s buried it would go on his gravesite.
John Phillip, Sr.: Tuaten tamalkuita tua aklui qayam-llu tuaten agarrcugngaluku ukuunrilengraata.
(All his belongings could be hung, even his kayak could be hung. They don’t have to be this kind.)
Joan Hamilton: Iliini atam Qissunami allaneret, ataucirqumeng elpengllemni tangllemni waten tekitellruut tava tagluteng piunrillret-llu aklui teguluki ayaulluki-llu.
(At Kashunak, strangers came once, after I became aware of life, so I saw them come. They went up and took the belongings of the deceased and left.)
John Phillip, Sr.: Ii-i, tuaten pilallruut. Nallunritanka-ll’ wiinga.
(Yes, they used to do that. I also know about that.)
Joan Hamilton: It’s kind of good to know ahead of time whether they were bought or not, because we both have experienced where non-Natives came to the village, and they went to the gravesite and started collecting these. And then they took them out without consulting anyone.
Aron Crowell: If that’s the case, then it would be something that should be repatriated.
Joan Hamilton: Right. See, that’s one thing we sort of need to know—it’s a thing we go through internally if there’s any suspicion that it may have been taken from a gravesite.
Aron Crowell: The process of repatriation involves that kind of research into whatever records there are for this.
Joan Hamilton: Tamakut tua cangalkellrunritanka kiputellrukaki. Taugaam iliini waten nalluaqama, nalluaqamta pilalriakut, pingatukut, nalluaqamta qaill unakellratnengumyuarteqnaurtua naklurluq uum im, qaill-gguq tegullruat-ggu?
(I don’t mind if they bought them. Sometimes when I don’t know, we seem to think otherwise, when we don’t know how they got a hold of them, I would think, poor people, how did they get a hold of these items?)
John Phillip, Sr.: Waten, waten makut wani imkut agangqalriit tuqulriim pillri, wangkuta aturyugaqamteki wangkuta teguluki trade-aqerluki canek pituaput picirraatun.
Alerquutenqerrluteng avaken. Trade-anricaaqkemteni tauna alangru.
(When we need to use the hanging objects that belong to a deceased person, we would take them as long as we trade a little something. There are rules about that. If we don’t trade, he will scare you.)
Joan Hamilton: In some villages, like in his village, but it’s not in all villages, if you see something on a grave site and you would like to be able to use it, then you need to take something of value and give it to the gravesite before you take that one. Otherwise, there’s—it’s not good. Let’s just put it that way.
[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 (NMNH) and National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), 4/22/2002-4/26/2002. Also participating: Aron L. Crowell, William Fitzhugh, and Stephen Loring (NMNH), Suzi Jones (Anchorage Museum), and Ann Fienup-R
1. All comments are from discussion of nearly identical hunting hat E160341.
2. Igaugek are “eyeshades, snow goggles” (Fienup-Riordan 2005). An elqiaq is a “traditional wooden visor to protect the eyes from the sun’s glare, eyeshade” (Jacobson 1984). An elqiaq is also called a “bentwood visor” or “hunting hat” and its plural form is elqiat (Fienup-Riordan 2005). An ugtarcuun is a “bentwood hunting hat” and a ciayaq is a “bentwood hat decorated with feathers” (Fienup-Riordan 2005). A caguyaq is a “conical wooden hat” in the Nunivak dialect of Yup’ik (Jacobson 1984).
3. Mr. Phillip refers to his home village of Kongiginak on Kuskokwim Bay. A different style of hat was made there (see hunting hat NMNH E038717 for an example of this kind).
4. For a Kongiginak-style hunting hat, see NMNH E038717.
5. Urasquq (also spelled urrasquq or urr’aq) is “white or gray clay which is mixed with caribou hair and used to make pottery” (Jacobsen 1984). Urasquq is also defined as “white clay, white clay paint” (Fienup-Rirodan 2005).
6. Qecik “skin” especially means “skin with hair or fur removed” (Jacobson 1984).
7. An ak’allaq is an “old thing, thing of the past” (Jacobsen 1984). Ak’allat—plural of ak’allaq—are also called “artifacts (literally ‘old things’)” (Fienup-Riordan 2005).
Men of southern Norton Sound, Nunivak Island, and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta wore conical bentwood hats for seal hunting, a practice that continued into the 1950s in some places.(1) Many of the older hats were decorated with ivory carvings, feathers, or painted figures.(2)
Bentwood hats were part of a man’s gear for hunting seals on ocean ices floes in spring, or in open water among the ice.(3) Men often painted the hats with urasqaq [white-gray clay]. On Nunivak Island in 1940, “the men endeavored to have their kayak cover very white, all gear clean and freshly painted blue, white, and light ocher; they wore a clean gut parka, fishskin mittens, and wooden hunting hat painted white and blue. Although all this was done principally to please the seals, which were supposed to like cleanliness, it also provided an effective disguise in the midst of blue sea and white ice floes.”(4)
Bentwood hats and other clean, new hunting gear were thought to attract seals and empower hunters.
(5) In a story told by Yup’ik Elder Paul John of Nelson Island, “The Boy Who Went to Live with the Seals,” a hunter puts on a bentwood hat and becomes a seabird (ciguraq, or Kittlitz’s murrelet) in the eyes of the seals he is pursuing.(6) As the disguised bird/hunter approaches, he breathes out a fog that puts the seals to sleep.(7) Bird images—painted on the hats or added in the form of feathers and ivory carvings of beaks, heads, and wings—refer to this change from human to avian form, and similar images was added to hunting visors.(8)
Men dressed in bentwood hats when they took part in ceremonies, such as launching kayaks in the spring, celebrations for the first bearded seal catch of the year, and the Bladder Festival.(9) During Nakaciuryaraq, the Bladder Festival, the bladders of all seals taken by hunters during the year were returned to the sea through a hole cut in the winter sea ice. The return of the bladders—which in Yup’ik belief contain the animals’ souls—ensured that the seals would reappear in the spring, clothed in new bodies.
(10) During a Bladder Festival observed by Edward W. Nelson at Kushunuk (Qissunaq) in 1879, all of the men placed their hunting hats in the center of the qasgiq [men’s community house] beneath hanging seal bladders and hunting weapons, and men wearing hunting hats danced the motions of various birds.(11) In 1991, Elder Billy Lincoln recalled participating in these dances at Bladder Festivals on Nelson Island.(12) Anthropologist Ann Fienup-Riordan concluded that, “Here, in the presence of the bladders by the symbolic hole in the ice, the hunters donned their hunting helmets and acted out the part of the birds in whose form the seals perceived them . . . .”(13)
1. Fienup-Riordan 1994:129
2. Black 1991:63; Fienup-Riordan 1994:129, 2005:205-07; Michael 1967:114; Nelson 1899:167
3. Curtis 1930:30; Lantis 1946:172; Meade and Fienup-Riordan 2005:244-49
4. Lantis 1947:152
5. Fienup-Riordan 1994:91
6. Fienup-Riordan 1994:129
7. Curtis 1930:80
8. Black 1991:36-41; Fienup-Riordan 1990a, 1994:124-140
9. Lantis 1946:184; 1947:43, 57; Meade and Fienup-Riordan 2005:245-49
10. Fienup-Riordan 1994:266-298; Himmelheber 1993:15-16; Jacobsen 1977:149-50
11. Nelson 1899:383
12. Fienup-Riordan 1994:137
13. Fienup-Riordan 1994:139