Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Ceremonial pail

qatauġaq “water bucket”
Language: Bering Strait Iñupiaq

Also called:
imiqaġvik “water bucket, water container”
Language: North Slope Iñupiaq

Taimani aġvaŋman—umiaqtuqtuaq aġvaŋman—aġnaq tuvaaqataa aġvaktuam saavitchuuruq. Aasii tavra aġviq imiqtiłługu fresh water. (Traditionally when a crew captain catches a whale, the woman goes out to where the whale is caught. And the whale is given fresh water to drink.)

—Ron Brower, Sr., 2002

Singing her welcome to the spirit of a newly-killed whale, a boat captain’s wife poured fresh water onto its snout from her ceremonial pail. In Iñupiaq belief this quenched the sea mammal’s thirst for fresh water. During winter ceremonies women raised their buckets to Alignuk, the Moon Man who controlled game, seeking the success of their husbands in the spring hunt. The ceremonial pail seen here is made of steam-bent wood and ornamented with polar bear teeth carved to represent whales’ tails and polar bear heads.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Length 29cm
Accession Date: 1952
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 218952.000