Woman's ground squirrel parka, made by Mrs James Kanuk


British Museum

British Museum

Among the Yup'ik of south-west Alaska, traditional style women's parkas are still made and worn on festive occasions. This woman's parka, called atkupiaq, was made by Mrs James Kanuk from Kipnuk in about 1965.

Taking advantage of Alaska's rich supply of fur-bearing animals, the Yup'ik use a variety of materials for their parkas. This example is made of ground squirrel pelts, preferred among the Yup'ik for winter clothing because of its warmth and lightness.

The atkupiaq is the most popular type of woman's parka among the Yup'ik living along the Kuskokwim River and in the Kuskokwim Bay area. This parka is very long by comparison with Canadian Inuit parkas, with an even lower edge. The border is decorated with a geometric design of black and white pieces of calfskin. On older parkas, the border was lined with a band of calfskin with fine decorative stitching, symbolizing footprints on snow. The hood with its beautiful ruff is much smaller than on a Canadian Inuit woman's amauti, and there is no pouch for carrying a baby. The garment is decorated with tassels of wolverine fur and red wool that are attached to white pieces of calfskin. The tassels, it is said, represent fingers.

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  • Title: Woman's ground squirrel parka, made by Mrs James Kanuk
  • Date Created: 1950/1973
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: Am1990,16.20
  • Production place: Made in Kipnuk
  • Producer: Made by Kanuk, James
  • Place: Found/Acquired Bethel
  • Peoples: Made by Arctic Peoples. Made by Yupik
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: squirrel skin
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Collected by King, Jonathan C H. Purchased from Kanuk, John