Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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ggiinaquq “mask”
Language: Koniag Sugpiaq (Alaska Peninsula dialect)

During the night he saw in a dream masks that the Koniags [Kodiak Island Sugpiat] afterwards used as if they were alive, and heard songs sung by some unknown voice. As soon as he awoke he began to sing these songs and went hunting and killed a great many animals.

—Oral tradition recorded by Alphonse Pinart, 1871–72

Sugpiaq masks represented ancestors, supernatural beings, and the personified spirits of game animals; all were ritually summoned to the qasgiq (ceremonial house) during winter festivals. The visitations of mask spirits were dramatized by dance, drumming, song, oratory, and enactments of hunting expeditions. This large mask, in appearance part human and part bird, may have been suspended from the ceiling of the qasgiq with a rope so that performers could dance behind it or send it flying across the room.

Culture: Sugpiaq (Alutiiq)
Region: Alaska Peninsula
Village: Douglas
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Height 51cm
Accession Date: 1884
Source: William J. Fisher (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E074694