Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Mourning neck ring

His face and hands were blackened with charcoal; on his neck, on his upper arms, at the waist, and on his legs he wore hoops of peeled willow bark like a necklace and bracelets. In this attire he was condemned to go about for a year and he would remain untouched; if he failed to comply, he risked being killed by any of his comrades.

—Lavrentii Zagoskin, 1847

Koyukon mourners wore wooden neck rings and arm bands for a period of one year following a death. This neck ring, engraved with caribou designs, was part of the same set as the arm bands that are also on exhibition. In the situation described by Russian explorer Lavrentii Zagoskin, a Yukon River man who had killed another was required to blacken himself with charcoal and to wearing mourning hoops made of willow bark.

Culture: Athabascan
Region: Alaska
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Length 26cm
Accession Date: 1869
Source: William H. Dall (donor)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E007610