Thursday, November 19, 2009


Mysterious Mummies of China. (2000) Mummies 101. Retrieved on November 19, 2009.


This website is from the PBS organization and its all about mummies, all over the world. It first tells about what a mummy is, why people did it, and how they did it. Then it gets into the different locations where mummification took place. First the website talks about Egyptian mummification, how they did it, why, and what it meant to them. Next are the early South America and Inca mummies. This is where some of the first mummifications took place. Then the website talks about smaller places in the world where mummification happened, places such as the Aleutians. Where the Unangax people placed their mummies in caves. Finally the website talks about how mummies can happen accidently. Overall this website has just about everything a person needs to know about mummification.

Aleutian Mummies

Mummification in Alaska is something I never thought possible; it was something I only saw in the movies. I became very interested in the Unangax culture, where mummification was part of their everyday life.
The Unangaxs would mummify their dead by removing viscera from the body cavity and then stuffing the body with grass. Then they would suspend it over their normal sleeping place in a wooden cradle-like frame in their house. There the body would lie for several months because the Unangan people wanted to prolong the presence of the dead. Afterwards, most of the dead were buried under the house or in the house walls. However, Unangan whalers in the eastern and central areas of the Aleutian chain were buried differently; they were mummified for reasons such as giving luck to future whalers by taking away part of their flesh before a hunting trip.
Other Unangax people of the Aleutian chain mummified their dead differently. Archaeologists have discovered more than 50 mummies dating back to 250 years ago in one Aleutian cave. These mummies were handled differently from the type of mummification i mentioned before. After taking out the body cavity and stuffing it with grass, they would then take the body to a stream so the water would wash away the body fat, leaving only the skin and muscle. Next they would bend the knees into a squatting position and let it dry outside in the open air. After it was dried, the body was wrapped in several layers of waterproof material and woven clothing, and then placed in a cave. The body would either be hung from the ceiling or on top of a platform so it would not get wet from the floor. In some of these caves along with the body, archaeologists have found kayaks, hunting equipment, armor, shields, knives, drums, and masks. With female mummies they have found other belongings such as, dishes of wood, knives, basketry, mats, and other essentials. These caves are more like Aleutian museums, that have been very carefully preserved. I wonder if the archaeologists found any parkas with the mummies.


Kamleika is a seal gut parka and the word comes from the Chukchi people. The Unangan name for the gut parka/rain coat is chagtalisax. Women would make this waterproof parka from using intestines from any large sea mammal. The men would wear this parka out hunting with a birdskin parka underneath to keep the hunters warm and dry. The hood and bottom of the parka had drawstrings on it. A hunter would tie his parka around the opening of his Kayak, so the water wouldn’t get into his kayak and he would tie his hood on very tightly, so water wouldn’t come in through the top of his parka around his neck. Gut parkas have not been worn since the early 1900s, after the 1940s skin clothing was no longer made. One elderly Unangax women said that she had a gut parka hanging on her wall in her house, but after the World War II evacuation in the 1940s it was gone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Today Unangans uses regalia’s for dance performances that are made out of synthetic materials that look similar to saxs and kamleikas (sea lion intestine waterproof parka). On the regalia’s they use the same type of borders along the bottom, cuffs and center of the regalia that are on the Yupik Kuspuks. Another type of synthetic material used is leather to make their regalia’s. They use beads, seal teeth, and seal fur to decorate them. This picture here is from the king cove dance group, which was formed in 1994 to help share the eastern Unangan culture. The video is from the Atka Dancers doing an opening dance performance.


Alaska Native Collection: Sharing Knowledge (2003). National Museum of Natural History: Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved on November 17, 2009.


This website is from the Smithsonian Institution in the Alaska Native Collections: Sharing Knowledge. The sax that is on display at the Smithsonian can be seen on this website up close and in detail. This website has great traditional knowledge about the sax from Unangax elders. They told the Smithsonian what the sax is made out of, whom it was mad for, the history of the sax, how Unangaxs used it in the past, and who used it. They talked about the different kind of birds and sea mammals they used to make a sax, and how they would catch many birds at once. This website includes all of the Alaska Native objects in the Smithsonian with elder information as well. This website teaches a few things about Alaska Native peoples history.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Elders Talk

The Smithsonian website has Unangax elders talking about the sax, and a picture of the sax that is in the Smithsonian. The elders say the Unangax people would wear this type of parka year around, on land and sea. At sea, men would wear saxs under their kamleikas which is a waterproof parka made form strips of sea lion intestines. The elders were able to tell that the parka in the Smithsonian was made for a woman, from 50 King Eider Ducks. The cuffs are made from sea lion, and the parka is sewn with really fine sinew thread.
Traditionally, these parkas were used for everyday survival, now they are used mainly for dance performances. Unangax people used many different kinds of birds to make saxs, horned puffins, tufted puffins, murres, cormorants, oldsquaw ducks, and ravens. Unangaxs would gather a large number of puffins in their underground nests by using string snares or whale baleen snares.

Here is a link to see the picture and website about the sax in the Smithsonian

Monday, November 16, 2009

Unangax Dancing and Inupiaq Dancing

I am half King Island Inupiaq and I have been Eskimo dancing with the King Island dance group since I could walk. I wanted to learn more about the Aleut parka because when it was displayed in the museum as a parka it looked just like the clothing that the Aleuts wear when they are dancing, which is styled very differently from the type of clothing that my family wears when we are dancing. As you can see the differences between clothing in the pictures of the Unangax girl on the bottom and my cousin Yamani dancing at AFN in the top photo. The styles of clothing, dancing, and drumming are all different from one another yet both cultures are unique and beautiful. Even though they are different, dancing is way for both cultures to express their culture, how they tell stories through songs and motions, and how they were able to entertain themselves on such small bountiful islands in the Bering Sea.