The Yup’ik people are indigenous to parts of Alaska, Canada, and Russia’s Siberia region. (The name, spelled without the apostrophe in Siberia.) They are related to the Inuit people and are often called Eskimos. However, although the term (Eskimo) is still used to refer to the Yupik and Inupiat people of Alaska and Siberia, it is now considered a pejorative term by the original indigenous people of Canada and Greenland. (It is better to refer to Iniut or Yup’ik people.)
In Yup’ik dances, the performers carry hand-held dance fans, called tegumiak, which help emphasize their movements. The women’s fans are made of woven grass and caribou whiskers or feathers, while the men’s are made of wood and feathers. The dancers use their upper bodies and arms (with the fans) to accentuate the motions, but their feet may remain stationary. The dances are usually done at winter “potlach” events, when one village invites another to its quagiq or large community house. The quagiq is a communal house for men; the women’s communal house is called an ena. During the winter month, men teach the boys survival skills (hunting, making qayaqs (kayaks), while women teach girls domestic skills (cooking, weaving, tanning hides). Then for several weeks, the boys and girls switch houses and learn the other’s skills. The Seal Dance, pictured here, tells the story of a seal hunt and mimics the action of the seal.
The woman is dressed in a kuspuk, a kind of hooded overshirt with a large front pocket worn by both native men and woman. The woman’s version has a gathered lower portion that resembles a ruffled skirt. Originally the kuspuk was made of animal skin and worn over a fur parka to keep it clean. Today, it is usually made of cotton calico or corduroy and worn like a tunic over pants.
Her boots are called mukluks and have a leather/hide bottom (much like a moccasin), with decorated upper portions of fur or often of seal or reindeer skin. The name comes from the Yupic word maklak for a bearded seal.
Border: the design of the border is taken from Yup’ik clothing images. Outer garments made to be both warm and water proof are often fur/hides joined with detailed, decorative stitchery. The Inuit invented the parka, a warm hooded unisex jacket/coat. Often made of seal skin (and other animal hide and fur), it was usually made waterproofed by rubbing it with fish oil.
References and Links:
( Note: I do not endorse or mean to promote any of these sites.)
- Alaska Native Collections. Yupik (Asiatic Eskimo). Smithsonian Institute. https://alaska.si.edu/culture_ne_siberian.asp?subculture=Yupik%20(Asiatic%20Eskimo)&continue=1
- NationalClothing.org. Fishskin clothing and accessories were common for the Arctic peoples.18/1/21. http://nationalclothing.org/802-fishskin-clothing-and-accessories-were-common-for-the-arctic-peoples-–-inuits,-aleuts,-eskimos,-yupiks.html
- Harvey, Ian. Life and traditions of Yupik, the Alaskan aboriginal peoples. The Vintage News. 15/12/2016. https://www.thevintagenews.com/2016/12/15/the-life-and-traditions-of-yupik-the-alaskan-aboriginal-peoples/
- Yupik People. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Yupik