Yup’ik Traditional Culture

Camai! Meaning hello. I chose my exhibit on Yup’ik Traditional Culture since I come from the central Yup’ik in Alaska. I also chose this topic and the artworks because i normally see these art crafts around that area. I have also made many crafts, mainly smaller crafts while living in a small community. I believe all the arts that are made have meanings of what people experienced and seen, just like the artworks that have meanings that were made in the earlier era.


Justina Mike, Wide Toothy Mouth Mask, 1994

Traditional masks have been made since many centuries ago and are still rarely being made today. These masks were mainly used for ceremonies, eskimo dance, to tell stories, and they are today they are made for displays. “Masked dancing took place during the long Alaskan winter in the qasgiq or commercial men’s house.” (Agayuliyararput) I’ve heard many stories from elders that all the stories took place in the qasgiq where men gathered and where younger generations were taught. The mask that was made by Justina Mike, was created in 1994. This mask is carved in wood, geese feathers are used for hair, ivory may be used for the teeth, and painted for decoration. I have read the book translated in Yup’ik about a baby with a wide mouth eating its mother and other people in the neighborhood. The story started off as a mother hiding her baby in her blanket not having others to get a chance to see the baby because the baby had a wide mouth. During the night while the people were sleeping, the baby ended up eating the mother and others around the neighborhood. Today the masks are made with more decorations around the head with carved animals.


Womens Parka, made by Mrs. James Kanuk, 1965

Atkupiaq’s or Parka’s are made richly from ground animals or sea animals such as otters that were trapped and hunted, beads and yarns. Parkas were generally first made in the Yup’ik Culture and Canada. This parka is a traditional style what my ancestors mainly used for festive occasions. And this parka is made of ground squirrel, the white boarder with black designs are a symbol of footprints on snow made of calfskin, the garment is decorated with wolverines fur strips and yarn, and the hood is made of wolverine and wolf skin. These parkas take time to prepare on drying the skin and sew all together. These were also made for newly wed women and to celebrate during the ceremonies. These are also rarely made today except most are made with designed cloth on the outside.

fish skin boots

Fish Skin Clothing

Some of you may think fish are just to be eaten and salmon skins are hard to make into craft. I have not seen any one make these clothing, but I have seen these in display. The fish skin boots and parka are made by an unknown artist from Cup’ik tradition in pre-1905. The middle picture was by Joel Isaak of fish skin hanging and preparing in making them into clothing. These kinds of clothing were popular to make until the use of fish skin clothing declined in mid 20th century. The fish skin boots is made of dried salmon fish skin, seamstress for strips, and boots. According to the article the boots were not easily thrown away, but they were recycled and made into a bag. The parka is also made with same materials. These were clothing were great during the wet season which were water proof, windproof, strong, and light weight qualities. In the late 19th and early 20th century there was a record of Alaska Native people throughout the state that used the skins of fish as an important resource.

There are many clothing made from wild animal furs, sea mammal skins, and cloth materials that are still made today. And more interestingly each cultures in Alaska prepares and makes them differently. There used to be much higher people making these kinds of clothing, but with resources available today, and some in a loss of traditional cultures there are few that are made.


Wide Toothy Mouth Mask, Agayuliyararput-Our Way of Making Prayer, 2004.


Parka, The British Museum, Womens Ground Squirrel Park Made by Mrs James Kanuk.


Fish Skin Clothing, Fish Skin as a Textile Material in Alaska Native Cultutres, 2014.


3 thoughts on “Yup’ik Traditional Culture

  1. Pingback: פרויקט טיפולי דרך אמנות מסייע לבני נוער בכפר באלסקה לדבר על התאבדות בקהילה שלהם | בלוג הספריה של המכללה האקדמית לחברה ואמנויות

  2. Pingback: פרויקט טיפולי דרך אמנות מסייע לבני נוער בכפר באלסקה לדבר על התאבדות בקהילה שלהם | בלוג הספריה של המכללה האקדמית לחברה ואמנויות

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