Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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nepcetaq “mask”
Language: Central Yup'ik

Angalkurtauniluku qanrutektullrukait makut. (They would say that these were from a shaman.)

—Virginia Minock, 2002

If a shaman bent down over a nepcetaq, it was said, the mask would rise from the floor and stick to his face. These and other dancing masks were worn during Kelek, a winter festival held in the communal house to invite, honor, and feed the spirits of game animals. The purpose was to ask the spirits to return in spring and to give their bodies to the hunters. Masks portrayed animals, animal spirits (yuit, or “inner persons”) or tuunrat (helping spirits) that assisted the shaman in his communications with other worlds.

Culture: Yup’ik
Region: Yukon River (lower), Alaska
Village: Rasboinsky (Russian name for Kinegnagak)
Object Category: Ceremony
Dimensions: Height 61cm
Accession Date: 1879
Source: E. W. Nelson (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E038812