Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

Related Objects

Figure (for whaling ritual)

kamegtaaq “carving of a whale or whale fluke used in a whaling ritual”
Language: St. Lawrence Island Yupik

In the center of the mangteghapik [traditional house] there’s a pole—people call it aghveghaqetaq or tiiwri. A rope was tied from it to here, on top of the carving. You take hold of this and try to get it straight over for the one who is standing opposite you, to catch.

—Estelle Oozevaseuk, 2001

Carvings of bowhead whales were used in Kamegtaaq, a thanksgiving ceremony held after the whaling season. The whale figure, with a tuft of reindeer hair to represent its spout, was hung above the seal oil lamp in a whaling captain’s house. Beginning with the captain, each man and a female partner swung the figure back and forth to each other across the burning lamp. Catching the whale carving reenacted the real hunt, which also requires the cooperation of women and men. Afterward each woman gave her partner a pair of new skin boots (kamek), from which the ceremony gets its name.

Culture: St. Lawrence Island Yupik
Region: St. Lawrence Island, Alaska
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Length 30cm
Accession Date: 1913
Source: Dr. Riley D. Moore (donor)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E280155