Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge



saguyak “drum”
Language: St. Lawrence Island Yupik

They had Eskimo dances in the largest igloo [nenglu] in the middle of the village. There were about five to a dozen singers, each with an Eskimo drum.... The movement of the bodies fit to the words of the song.

—Roger Silook, 1976, from “Stories the Old People Told on St. Lawrence Island”

Men play walrus-stomach drums to provide the rhythm for St. Lawrence Island dance and singing, and in the past they were used during feasts and religious ceremonies. Fast drumming in a darkened house accompanied shamans’ healing and magical performances. The head of this drum is the lining of a walrus stomach, inflated, dried, and stretched; the frame is driftwood, whittled down and softened in hot water to allow it to be bent into shape.

Culture: St. Lawrence Island Yupik
Region: St. Lawrence Island, Alaska
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Length 52cm
Accession Date: 1923
Source: Arnold Liebes (collector)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 123940.000