Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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kiinauq “mask”
Language: Qawiaraq Iñupiaq

The aŋatkut [shamans] of Kauwerak used beach wood to make masks. They painted them with Eskimo paint made of alder bark for red and charcoal from willows for black…They believed that those masks could protect them.

—William Oquilluk, from “People of Kauwerak: Legends of the Northern Eskimo,” 1973

Shamans carved masks to represent beings they had seen on their spiritual flights to other worlds, and to protect themselves against other shamans and threatening supernatural forces. Men and women wore masks to dance in the qargi (community house) after the hunting season when they honored the animal spirits and asked them to return in the spring. This mask represents a man’s face with mustache, beard, and labrets.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Norton Sound, Alaska
Village: St. Michael
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Length 23.5cm
Accession Date: 1876
Source: Lucien M. Turner (donor)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E024326