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Mask with plaque

kiiñaġuq “mask”
Language: North Slope Iñupiaq

Whaling is a very important part of our life. In many ways it’s part of our sacred beliefs. Everything that we’re doing during a year is dealing with whaling – some form of preparation, celebration, rites, and rituals of whaling.

—Ronald Brower Sr., 2002

At the end of spring whaling men who had served on successful crews danced first in the ceremonial house and then at homes in the village, each wearing a mask and a wooden plaque that hung on his chest. Mask and plaque are tied together in this set. Painted images include whales, boats, and polar bears. Hidden underneath the mask the image of Kikamigo, a deity who controlled the supply of sea mammals. White feathers once lined the top edge of the plaque, enhancing its resemblance to a pair of wings.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Northwest Alaska
Village: Point Barrow
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Length: 47.5cm
Accession Date: 1883
Source: Patrick H. Ray (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E089817