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WILLIAM J FISHER COLLECTION
WOMAN'S BEADED HEADDRESS

COLLECTOR'S DOCUMENTATION:
"Woman's beaded headdress"

-William Fisher

CATALOG NO:  90453
OBJECT TYPE: beaded headdress

REMARKS:
Beaded headdresses from the Native cultures of Alaska are some of the most spectacular items in museum collections. Examples are found from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to southeast Alaska.

Undoubtedly, the more elaborately beaded nacat, as they were referred to by the Alutiit, were wealth items and indicated the elite status of their owners. Whether nacat were made prior to contact with Europeans is not known. Certainly beads of ivory, red shale, amber, bone, shell and stone were used in the decoration of persons and clothing, household items, hunting implements, and toys. But they were in relatively short supply. The proliferation of glass beads resulting from European trade in the North Pacific provided a greater opportunity to incorporate beads into traditional arts, either as substitutes for traditional materials or as the foundation for innovative forms.

The cultural context of these headdresses is unclear. Among the Alutiit, it appears that women's nacat were customarily worn by girls and young women, at least in the 19th century. Their absence in European descriptions of ceremonial accounts suggests restricted access to non-Alutiiq observers. Ultimately, the meaning of these beautiful headdresses remains somewhat of a mystery. We hope to learn more in the future about their symbolic significance and how this differed among the many Alaska Native peoples who valued them so highly.

-Dee Hunt

CATALOG NUMBER:

90453

OBJECT TYPE:

beaded headdress

ACCESSION NO.:

14024 (1884)

YEAR COLLECTED:

1883

FIELD NUMBER:

99

GROUP NAME:

Ugaasarmiut

GROUP NAME RECORDED BY FISHER:

UGASHAGMJUT

LOCATION:

Ugaasaq (Ugashik)

LOCATION RECORDED BY FISHER:

UGASHAK, BRISTOL BAY

NATIVE LANGUAGE TERM:

nacaq

NATIVE LANGUAGE TERM RECORDED BY FISHER:

NA-DSHAK

DIMENSIONS:

H=51 cm

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