Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Ceremonial bowl

kayukaq “bowl, dish, plate”
Language: Bering Strait Iñupiaq

Also called:
puggutaq “bowl, dish, plate”
Language: Qawiaraq Iñupiaq

The person who made this has seen animals change into something else.... It could be years since they’ve seen it, but they can carve ivory to make the image of what they have seen.... Those aren’t just imaginary things.

—Jacob Ahwinona, 2001

Decorated bentwood vessels were used for serving food at festivals and feasts. The ivory carvings represent adult bowhead whales, yearling bowheads, a beluga whale, and other animals. Blue beads on two of the whale figures mark the location of the animal’s life force and the place where the harpooner aims. Several of the whales are shown with seal or walrus heads, and Bering Strait elders said that hunters sometimes glimpse such rare combination animals. The carvings on the bowl may represent one man’s lifetime of hunting and visionary encounters at sea.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Diameter 38.5cm
Accession Date: 1935
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 188306.000