Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Dance mitts

aqłitiik “pair of dancing mitts”
Language: Bering Strait Iñupiaq

Where I came from [King Island], they used this kind of mittens for Eskimo dancing. I think these mittens are from the Wolf Dance.

—Marie Saclamana, 2001

The Wolf Dance is part of Kivgik, the Messenger Feast. It reenacts a traditional story of swallows turning into wolves. Dancers in mittens and eagle feather headdresses jump backwards through holes that represent the swallows’ nests, and come out wearing wolf masks. These mittens are decorated with puffin beaks. The Wolf Dance and Messenger Feast both ended in the early part of the 20th century as people adopted Christian beliefs, but have been revived as expressions of cultural identity and community.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Length 79.5cm
Accession Date: 1918
Source: n.a. (seller)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 086758.000