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Catalog Data

Donor Name:
Edward W. Nelson  Search this
Height - Object:
46 cm
Eskimo, Yupik, St. Lawrence Island  Search this
Object Type:
Household Guardian
St. Lawrence Island, Bering Sea, Alaska, United States, North America
Accession Date:
9 Feb 1882
FROM CARD: "6/71."
This object is on loan to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, from 2010 through 2022.
Source of the information below: Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center Alaska Native Collections: Sharing Knowledge website, by Aron Crowell, entry on this artifact , retrieved 7-31-2018; see web page for additional information: Household Guardian. Wooden figures once served many religious purposes on St. Lawrence Island. Some were household guardians that protected families from harmful spirits and others were used in hunting, whaling, and weather rituals. After successful hunts men fed or rubbed certain wooden figures with blubber from whales, walrus, and seals. Elaine Kingeekuk recalled that her grandmother had a guardian figure, smaller than this one, that stood in a corner; its duty was to protect the children of the house. The effigy was cared for like a child itself and was always "fed" before the family began its own meal. According to St. Lawrence Island Yupik Elder Vera Kaneshiro, 2004, an alingtiiritaq [amulet/ good luck charm/household guardian], as a household guardian, was usually made from wood and was larger than a taghnughhaghwaaq [doll]. An alingtiiritaq was placed at the entrance of a home for protection against bad spirits and to scare away enemies. Wooden figures served many religious purposes. Some were household guardians that protected families from harmful spirits, while others were used in hunting, whaling, and weather rituals.(1) Men would give food to these figures after successful hunts. Elder Nelson Alowa of Savoonga said that, "They have a hole just like a mouth . . . They feed with a little seal blubber, grease, sour grease; they put in the mouth just like a human."(1) 1. Geist and Rainey 1936: 30-31, 123; Fair 1982:51; Lee 1999:36 2. Fair 1982:51 .
Record Last Modified:
31 Jul 2018
Specimen Count:
Ethnology  Search this
Accession Number:
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Data Source:
NMNH - Anthropology Dept.