Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Hunting hat

ugtarcuun “bentwood hat, conical wooden hat”
Language: Central Yup'ik

This is a creature of the sea, a bird, and what he’s thinking is that this is a helping spirit. That kind of a bird is a creature of the sea, and it can facilitate a better hunt.

—Joan Hamilton, translating for John Phillip, Sr., 2003

This wooden hat, worn for spring seal hunting, is painted with white clay and the image of a red-eyed bird with a long beak. The pale colors of the hunter’s hat, clothes, and boat helped to conceal him amidst floating ice. John Phillip, Sr. said that the bird might be a grebe, painted on the hat as a helping spirit or to signify a Yup’ik rule that a deceased person’s relatives can only go down to the sea after migrating grebes arrive in spring.

Culture: Yup’ik
Region: Yukon & Kuskokwim River Delta, Alaska
Village: Kaialigamut
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length 29cm
Accession Date: 1879
Source: E. W. Nelson (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E038717