Course in Iñupiaq Land Use Values and Resources

Dancing, Singing, and Mask-making

One of the most wonderful and relaxing experiences on this trip was listening to the elders sing. They often sang as they did chores, but there was one night in particular that stood out. There had been some visitors from the village and we had our usually hearty feast.  As we were cleaning and doing the dishes, they started singing.  They didn't stop, and eventually it turned into an all out singing and dancing performance.

What I Learned:

-Willow and grass can be used as floors (the ground thaws out, and the grass gets very wet and muddy)

-Flowers can be used as underarm deodorant

-It is easy to lose track of the days

-Ice floes make the most incredibly beautiful sounds: floating icicles by the shore sounds like wind chimes, ice breaking in the distance sounds like rolling thunder

-I can go days without needing or wanting to look in the mirror

-Spilling an egg is good luck

-Ravens are good luck

-It can get hot in Alaska

-Eskimos aren't very shy or modest about their bodies, especially the elder women

-How bitingly cold Arctic water is

-There are different dialects of Inupiaq - this one is "Slope"

-If your grandparents die, you adopt new ones

-If someone dies, children are given the name of the person who died

-Never eat snow, your insides will freeze faster than your outside

-If your eye twitches, that means you will see someone you haven't seen in a long time

From Our Arctic Province by Henry W. Elliot (1886):

"The conventional coat of these people is the 'parka', made of marmot and muskrat-skins, or of tanned reindeer-hides, with enormous winter hoods, or collars, of dog-hair or fox-fur...  In winter the heavy hood-collar, or cowl, is fitted so as to be drawn over his entire head and pulled down to the eyes.  This parka is worn with singular ease and abandon: frequently the arms are withdrawn from the big, baggy sleeves and stowed under the waist-slack of the garment, leaving these empty appendages to dangle."

From Ethnological Results of the Point Barrow Expedition by John Murdoch (1892):

"The custom of tattooing is almost universal among the women, but the marks are confined almost exclusively to the chin and form a very simple pattern."

From Ethnological Results of the Point Barrow Expedition by John Murdoch (1892):

"The music was furnished by the usual orchestra of old men, who beat drums and sang a monotonous song... The only musical instrument in use among these people is the universal drum or tambourine, consisting of a membrane stretched over a hoop with a handle on one side, and used from Greenland to Siberia.  It is always accompanied by the voice singing or chanting."

From The Eskimos: Their Environment and Folways by Edward Moffat Weyer, Jr., Ph.D. (1932):

"The skin of the caribou is adaptable as clothing, particularly for winter usem while the sinew of the back and legs is highly satisfactory as thread."


From The Eskimo of North Alaska by Norman A. Chance (1966):

"Caribou is the most significant land mammal regularly hunted.  Traditionally it provided a variety of food, sinew for sewing, antlers for implements, and skins for clothing, tents, and bedding.  Meat and skin were the most important of these items, with skin serving for clothing up to the present day."