Celebrations Heritage Kit

Celebrations Heritage Kit

Original inventory: https://chugachheritageak.org/pdf/celebrations-inventory.pdf

Celebrations have traditionally played an important part in our lives and continue on today. The celebrations were not only a way to share values and beliefs that Sugpiat culture holds dear but also as a way to break up the long winters. The celebrations were a way to express not only the moral values of respectful hunting, community sharing, and commemoration but their spiritual connection to the land, to their communities, and to their Elders.

The traditional Sugpiaq belief system centered on a cosmos whose every aspect possessed a consciousness and the layers of reality separating human from animal life were fluid. Traditionally, it was believed that all living things possessed a spirit (suk). The celebrations honored these connections to the animals which sustained them and petitioned for more successful hunts in the future. The traditional winter Bladder Festival honored the souls of all the animals killed during the year. The animals’ souls were said to reside in their bladders which the hunters had kept of all animals killed through the year. The hunters would then dry, and paint the bladders to prepare for the festival. When it was time, they would, hang the animal bladders from the ceiling as they danced and sang stories of their hunts as a way to show respect and appeal to the animal spirit world for a fruitful hunting season ahead.

Throughout the year the Sugpiaq held ceremonies and feasts and traveled to other villages’ celebrations as well. There the hosts often presented guests with impressive gifts and food, reminiscent of the potlatches of Southeastern tribes. These gatherings often included stories, games, races, and dances both spiritual and narrative performed to the beat of the drums. Masks often represented the spirits or spirit worlds (suk).

In Prince William Sound the Feast of the Dead was held every August to memorialize lives lost in the previous year – in addition to any individual funeral rites. Hosting duties for this large scale ceremony rotated among the villages of the sound. The Feast began with a week or more of singing and dancing, including masked performers who presented comedic dances. The hosts would prepare for months as they would present guests with food, furs and gifts with the request that they remember the departed. Other gifts were burned as offerings to the sky world where the ancestors lived. Frequently the masks used were burned or stowed away in caves after the ceremony.

The arrival of the Russian fur trade in the late 18th century with its attendant epidemics and exploitation severely curtailed Sugpiat ceremonial life. Yet indigenous ceremonies and shamanism persisted alongside of the gradual conversion of the Sugpiat to Russian Orthodoxy. “Celebrations still held in many villages around the time of Russian Christmas combine aspects of traditional masking, feasting, and dance with Christian symbols and Russian folk traditions.”ii

Sugpiaq celebrations and gatherings are still with us today. The Russian Orthodox holidays of Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter are still marked with elaborate starring rituals, maaskalataq, dances, and specialty foods. Honoring those who have passed on has certain traditions and celebrations. A child’s first successful hunt or fish is still given away to be shared with the community. We hope you enjoy this kit where you can explore both the form and function of Sugpiaq celebrations with stories, songs and dances of the past, present and future.

Items in Collection: 
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
An illustrated paper book that reviews the many traditional ways of storytelling in the Chugach Region. Written in Sugt'stun for children, the book shows how people share stories through speaking, singing, dancing, and more.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation, Nanwalek
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
A collection of accounts of traditional life in Nanwalek told by community members and collected by the students of English Bay Elementary/High School.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
A collection of puzzles, games, and coloring activities for children. The activities are accompanied by descriptions of traditional attire, activities, and housing, and other cultural knowledge.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
A collection of short Alutiiq cultural lessons.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation, Ingam-atya
Category
Book/Publication
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
An ethnography of the Chugach culture and people written following a Danish-American Expedition in 1933.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
A collection of legends, stories, and photographs from the Chugach Region.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
An anthropological overview of the cultures of Siberia and Alaska. The book explores the cultures of Alaska by region as well as by themes such as art, trade, maritime economics, and more.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation, iiyaaG
Category
Book/Publication
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
This book is a collection and display of the Sugpiaq masks collected in 1871 by Alphonse Pinart, a young French scholar who studied the Indigenous languages of coastal Alaska and traveled through the Aleutian Islands, Bristol Bay, and Kodiak Archipelago.
Bidarki Headdress Wide Angle.jpg
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation, Qutekcak
Category
Three-Dimensional Artifact/Object
Summary
This bidarki headdress originates from Qutekcak (Seward). Made of bidarki shells, black and white beads and delicate thread, it is in very fragile condition and in need of expert repair.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
A published catalog of artifacts from around Alaska housed at various museums with accompanying descriptions of Alaska Native groups, created as a collaborative project between the Smithsonian, Arctic Studies Center, Anchorage Museum, and more.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
This book explores the history, heritage, and traditional life of Alutiiq communities, predominantly from Kodiak Island and the Alaska Peninsula.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
This historical work provides an account of the historical arc of the Alutiiq people of the Alaska Peninsula, spanning some 9,000 years. The book concentrates on the past 200 years between Russian occupation and the start of the war with Japan.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
This work catalogs the collection of nearly five hundred Alutiiq/Sugpiaq cultural items held by the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, or the Kunstkamera, in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
Based on a Yupik tale as told by Betty Huffman, this story centers on a young boy named Amik who is sent out by his grandmother to find food.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
Designed to be a companion to the "Giinaquq: Like a Face" Exhibition, this work is an exhibition of 34 masks and one bowl from a collection held by the Chateau Musee in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
Based on an Athabascan legend passed along for many generations from mothers to daughters of the upper Yukon River Valley in Alaska, this book tells a story about two old women abandoned by their tribe during a brutal winter famine.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation, Ingam-atya
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
The book is a compilation of personal accounts directly from Chenega community members.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation, Taatiillaaq
Category
Audio Recording
Summary
A collection of traditional songs and interviews from Tatitlek.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation, Nanwalek
Category
Audio Recording
Summary
A collection of traditional songs from Nanwalek.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation, Ingam-atya
Category
Audio Recording
Summary
A collection of traditional songs from Chenega Bay.
Community
Chugachmiut Heritage Preservation
Category
Book/Publication
Summary
In a traditional story from the Chinook people of the Northwest, a young boy disappears and is found years later, swimming with the seals.