Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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chaayax “drum”
Language: Unangam Tunuu (Eastern Aleut, Atkan and Attuan dialects)

There was a man called Uĝdigdang who always had celebrations…He used to say to his people, “Even when I am dead I shall have celebrations. So when I die, you shall lay me in the cave of my observation hill, putting with me my drum and paints.”

—Ivan Suvorov, 1910, from the traditional story “Uĝdigdang”

Drumming accompanied dance and song during the ceremonial season from December through April. Young men struck their instruments with wooden sticks while the women and older men danced. Dancers dressed in festival hats and clothing, wore masks, and carried rattles made from inflated seal stomachs. Drums, like masks, were broken after the ceremonial season or placed in caves, never to be used again. Some were left as offerings with the mummified bodies of chiefs.

Culture: Unangax (Aleut)
Region: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Length 63.5cm
Accession Date: 1883
Source: Dr. Leonhard Stejneger (collector, donor)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E073020