Caguyaq qupuramek canamauq. - The hunting hat is made of wood.
In the cool, wet Kodiak environment, hats are an essential item of clothing. Among Alutiiqs, headgear was once fashioned from many different materials. Warm, water-resistant hats were sewn from animal pelts and loon skins, woven from spruce root, and carved from wood. The most spectacular of these were bentwood hats, expertly bent to shape with steam.
Bentwood hats shielded their wearers from sun and sea spray, but they also held magical powers. These elegant hats hid the hunter’s human face and transformed him into a mystical being with the power to kill seals, porpoises, and whales. Each hat was elaborately decorated—a work of art reflecting the owner’s personality, achievements, and social status. Hats were brightly painted with geometric designs, images of sea mammals, and hunting scenes and then embellished with ivory carvings, beads, woven tassels, feathers, and sea lion whiskers. Each element was rich with symbolism. Some motifs recounted great chases; others referenced helpful bird or animal spirits.
On Kodiak, the typical hunting hat had a closed crown and a long brim. In contrast, Alutiiq people of the Alaska Peninsula wore bentwood visors with an open crown and shorter brim, much like their Yup’ik neighbors to the north. The art of hat bending continues today. Artists like Jacob Simeonoff of Akhiok and Peter Lind of Chignik are passing this tradition to the next generation, teaching carving and bending and helping students develop their own unique decorative styles.
Image: Alutiiq hunter in decorated benwood hat. Detail of watercolor by Helen Simeonoff, Alutiiq Museum collections.
April-rem winga Jeremy-mek atengr'tuq. - April's husband's name in Jeremy.
In classical Alutiiq society, marriages were either arranged or formed by mutual consent. A couple might approach their parents for permission to marry, or parents might plan their children's engagement. Marriages were formalized with valuable gifts. Prospective in-laws exchanged items to symbolize their acceptance of a union. With the gifts bestowed, the young husband went to live with his bride, working with her father to prove his abilities. When children were born, couples often started their own households. There was no formal ceremony at the time of marriage, although some unions were recognized with celebrations at winter festivals. After marriage, a woman might add additional tattoos to her body or hands as a sign of love for her husband.
Marriages were usually monogamous, with one man married one woman. However, polygny - marriage to multiple spouses - did occur. Chiefs and shaman were particularly likely to have multiple wives. One historic source tells of a chief who married eight women. Similarly, wealthy women would sometimes marry a second husband. This person functioned like servant, conducting household chores.
Photo: John and Julia Pestrikoff, husband and wife, Port Lions, Alaska.