Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Tobacco box

meluskarvik “container for snuff”
Language: Central Yup'ik

Iqmiutauluni. (It is a snuff box.) Nutaraunganani. (It looks recent.) It looks also like a box for tobacco iqmik (“to have something in the mouth,” meaning chewing tobacco).

—Joan Hamilton, 2002

Many men and women used tobacco in the form of snuff - finely chopped and sifted leaves that they took into their noses through an ivory tube or the wing bone of a goose. They also chewed tobacco that had been mixed with the ashes of birch tree fungus, coltsfoot, butterbur, willow, and other plants. People carried their supplies of snuff and chewing tobacco in small wooden boxes, often carved to represent animals. This one is probably a fish, with gills on the sides. The beauty of carved snuff boxes reflected the value of their contents.

Culture: Yup’ik
Region: Alaska
Village: Kulwoguwigumut
Object Category: Baskets, bags, boxes
Dimensions: Length: 2.2cm
Accession Date: 1879
Source: Edward W. Nelson (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E036282