Kalla’alek & Masks

Our task while perusing the exhibits at the Alaska State Museum today, was to find an artifact that spoke to us.  Something that would invoke a sense of curiosity within us and lead us down a path of discovery, or at least that is how I took the assignment.  As I meandered the museum I zoned in on the Alutiiq interpretive signs and specifically the display about the Kalla’alek, also known as Shamans.

“According to Sugpiaq/Alutiiq beliefs, shamans (kalla’alek: one who has a helping spirit) had familiarity with the spirit world.  They could foretell hunting success and weather, read minds and cure the ill.  Both men and women would become shamans, typically after serving an apprenticeship or acquiring a helping spirit.  Shamans used dolls, whistles, masks and other talismans to help them work.”

Raven who married Chief's DaughterArtifact: Raven Who Married the Chief’s Daughter

Who made it: By Perry Eaton

When was it made: 2013.

Where is it from: (ALUTIIQ) Gift of the Rasmusson Foundation. 2014-21-1

What drew me to the object:

This mask was held in the same display as the Kalla’alek interpretive sign.     As I continued reading I found that masks were worn for multiple purposes, shamans would use masks for healing, others for hunting success, others for giving thanks to spirits, or appeasing evil spirits.  “Wearing a mask transformed one into a spiritual being and allowed transcending worlds.”

I found this fascinating and want to delve deeper and look for stories behind these mask celebrations and rituals.  The mask in the exhibit was given as a gift from the Rasmusson Foundation in 2014, but the origins were from a gentleman named Perry Eaton with a creation date of 2013.

What I’d like to know further:

I’d be interested in finding masks from the time period where masks were used and find stories behind them.

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