Saturday, February 12, 2011

Messenger Feast

I arrived in Barrow yesterday evening and was surprised to hear that I had arrived before the last day of Kivgiq and was encouraged by several to to at least go see some of the Eskimo dances in the high school gym. Of course, I had no idea what they were talking about so I felt obligated to at least stop by for a look. Kivgiq is the re-creation of the Eagle Wolf Messenger Feast by the North Slope Borough and it brings together people from throughout the area for a time of dancing and celebration. After all, the sun is above the horizon again. There was also a craft fair going on where folks from all over the area were selling hand made goods such as kuspuqs, baleen, ivory, seal skin mittens and hats, and all sorts of other things. There was a hospitality room set up where local families made all sorts of food for the visitors from out of town and even included some very thinly sliced maktaq or whale blubber. This celebration has been going on since Wednesday morning and there was a full schedule of activities every afternoon and evening since then. There have been dance groups from the different villages performing as well as speakers and story telling going until way past midnight every day. I imagine that there has been some feasting going on as well.

Here are some photos of one of the dance groups.

I did pick up a decorative knife made by a local Barrow artist from whale baleen and decorated with a bit of ivory, a bead and polar bear fur. I thought it looked pretty cool. I  don't think TSA would like this in my carry on...


  1. A people that celebrates their culture and traditions and teaches such to their young, is a people that will endure.


    Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

    Redleg's Rides

  2. Kiviq looks like an interesting event. That knife looks very cool. That's neat that it has ivory and polar bear fur.

    A friend of mine and his wife went to Alaska last summer on a cruise. He said the handmade gifts there are really nice but also can be expensive. Maybe that's true only in the tourist areas.

  3. Dom:
    Excellent point. Most of the performers were young people and not just girls. The drummers were mostly young men and several of them participated in the dancing as well. Very animated. I wish I had taken some video.

    Mike Simmons:
    Yes, the handmade crafts are usually pretty expensive but I think a lot of that is markup at the tourist gift shops. Especially ones catering to cruise ship passengers.

    Thank you both for stopping by and commenting.

  4. Awesome heritage, and wonderful to see the younger generation carrying on the traditions.

    My parents shot some video of Eskimo dancing back when they visited Alaska. Looks similar to your photos, but I'm sure they weren't visiting in January, so must have been some other event.

    The knife is beautiful. Yeah, probably better not pack that one on a trip! :)

  5. Dear Richard M:

    If you find yourself in the vicinity of a native people's festival like this next year, please let me know. I collect hats and a sealshin one would be really cool. I have a fox hat, made from the entire fox pelt, with the hind legs making a kind of hood, that I just love.

    The knife looks like the very thing no fashionable innuit would be without. What is the blade made of, and is it sharp?

    My significant other got me a skinning knife made in Alaska and it is sharp enough to shave steel.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  6. Jack:
    The blade is made from whale baleen which is the filter material in their mouths. It kind of looks and feels like carbon fibre. The blade is not sharp but it is pretty rigid. The knife is purely decorative.

  7. Whoa, really enjoyed this entry. And Charlie6 has it totally right when speaking of the native cultures and the young. What a fantastic experience you were able to accidentally bump into! It's the unexpected things in life that give us so much pleasure...and this post was a welcome, yet unexpected pleasure.