Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Kayak cockpit stanchions

ayaperviik “central deck stiffener of a kayak”
Language: Central Yup'ik

They prevented the person from falling while getting in and out of the kayak. All kayaks had ayaperyarat on them. This one has a woman’s face with a down-turned mouth carved on it. Perhaps the other side would have a man’s face carved on it.

—Wassilie Berlin, 1997, from "Yup’ik Elders at the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin," 2005

The smiling face of a man and the frowning face of a woman grace these pieces from a kayak frame. A kayak’s cockpit was encircled by a wooden hoop which was supported from below by two stanchions, one fastened to the frame on each side of the boat. Stanchions were carved or painted in paired designs—two eyes, breasts, faces, animals, or birds—that acted in spiritual concert to keep the boat in equilibrium. Male and female faces may also have represented the connection between a man and his wife, whose actions on land influenced his success on the water.

Culture: Yup’ik
Region: Nunivak Island, Alaska
Object Category: Boats
Dimensions: Length: 17.6cm (max measurement)
Accession Date: 1927
Source: Henry B. Collins Jr. and Thomas D. Stewart (collectors)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E340373