Object photography

Image © Dan Gair, 2008.
Image © Dan Gair, 2008.
Click image to enlarge +

Object description

  • Yup'ik artist
  • Finger mask, 19th century
  • Wood, pigment, reindeer hair
  • Cape Vancouver, Alaska, United States
  • H: 7 in, W: 8 3/4 in, D: 5/8 in (H: 17.8 cm, W: 22.2 cm, D: 1.6 cm)
  • Gift of Israel Albert Lee, 1910
  • E13112
  • Performing songs, stories and dances occurred during long winter ceremonial months
  • Each hand wore a matching finger mask; the mate is missing from this pair

During the wintertime, dances were enacted to reinforce systems of reciprocity between the community and the animals they depended on for survival. Finger masks portraying a face were typically used by women. The process of dancing a story is a physical expression of belief, tradition and continuity, and no Yu'pik dancer would do so bare-handed.


This is a woman's finger mask worn while dancing. The object is carved out of wood two round finger holes below a round face. The face is smiling on one side of the mask and frowning on the opposite side. The object is decorated with red, white, and black pigment. White and black reindeer hair extends out from the circular mask.