Object photography

View of the artwork on display in 'Intersects: Native American Art in a New Light'; Peabody Essex Museum; 2006 through 2012.
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Object description

  • Yup'ik artist
  • Drum, Late 19th century
  • Bladder, paint, wood
  • Cape Vancouver, Northwest Alaska, United States
  • L: 20 1/2 in, W: 12 1/2 in, D: 5 3/8 in (L: 52.1 cm, W: 31.7 cm, D: 13.7 cm)
  • Gift of Israel Albert Lee, 1910
  • E13084
  • Played as the only instrument accompanying Yup'ik dance and song
  • Probably used by shaman during winter ceremonies

This drum, made from a sea-mammal bladder, was likely owned by a shaman. The handle depicts spirit helpers who enable shamans to communicate with other worlds. The circular designs, depicting land and sea animals, refer to seasonal cycles of hunting and spirituality in Yup'ik culture.


This is a drum with shallow sides. The head is divided in half in the center by a black painted horizontal line; two painted scenes appear on the upper and lower half of the drum head. On the upper half are designs of land animals, and on the lower half are sea animals (fish). A pair of elongated beasts (possibly palraiyuks, the meat-eating monsters of lakes, marshes, and creeks), surrounds the land and sea animals. A small, curved piece of wood with traces of red paint, is the handle, and is attached to the drum head, located underside. The handle is also a humanlike figure, with a deep transverse notch down the front chest and stomach. A curved wood handle sticks through, decorated with a carved animal head - the animals back half and tail extends from the figure's backside. At the bottom, a small wooden figure is strapped to the much larger carved figure. A long leather thong is attached to the handle, tied to which is the drum stick for striking the drum. This would have been held with the underside covering the face and struck from below.

Exhibition History

  • Upcoming Exhibition, Peabody Essex Museum; 2015 through Present
  • Gifts of the Spirit: Works by Nineteenth-Century & Contemporary Native American Artists, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.; November 14, 1996 through May 18, 1997
  • Intersections, Native American Art in a New Light, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.; June 24, 2006 through November 27, 2011
  • Shorelines, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.; 2001 through 2004