Would you dance alone in front of an audience...all eyes on you?
1 (8%)...No way! They don't make a good enough costume for that! 9 (75%)...Maybe, if I could wear a disguise. 2 (16%)...No problem! Who needs a costume?
A few friends and relatives have asked about the year that I participated in Puuqtaluk. I have to admit that I could never have done it without the disguise. I envy those two brave individuals who indicated in the poll that they wouldn't even need a costume to dance in front of a crowd. All I can say to that is...yikes! My enthusiasm for personal humiliation falls squarely with the majority...maybe even toward the lower end of the scale.
For me, doing Puuqtaluk was a stretch. But, I have to admit, the whole experience was a total blast. From finding over-sized men's clothes at a thrift store in Anchorage...to applying brown eye shadow over my entire face to hide my ethnicity...it was all one big hilarious challenge. I stuffed three (or was it four?) pillows in the shirt and pants. And I wore three shirts (one a turtle neck) and muscle-man padding that I'd found with the discounted Halloween costumes. That added several inches to my arms, chest, and stomach (muscular inches...don't you think?) and helped to round out the overall physique. I had to stuff about forty plastic grocery bags into the size 11 men's work boots, in both the feet and the legs, just to keep them on. Men's gloves and a 52 inch belt finished off the ensemble. It was important to find the largest belt possible because I had noticed at previous Puuqtaluk competitions that contestants often stuffed their clothes with pillows, but used a small belt which made their identity easier to guess. So, I was sneaky. I kept stuffing and stuffing until I felt like Old West Santa...much harder to identify.
It took a while, but I finally found the photos. Some of you have already seen these. As I warned back then...I'll warn again...brace yourself! Puuqtaluk costumes, in general, are not for the faint of heart and mine was no exception. I think the thing that made my disguise rather unsettling was that it was somewhat realistic. People did a lot of double-takes as they looked my way. Children stared from a distance, unsure if I was Puuqtaluk-ing or actually a strange man lurking in the corner. Even adults steered clear as they walked past me, avoiding eye contact. At the end, when I pulled off the mask, there was a loud, "Aathaaa!" which, loosely translated, is Eskimo for, "Holy cow!" My students were amazed and exceedingly proud that their teacher had danced in public, fooled everyone, and even won second place. They were also more than a little interested in my prize money!
********************* I took these photos at my principal's house on the way to the community center that night. My principal was sitting on the couch and kept stealing glances at me and then looking away. He said, "I know it's you because I recognize your voice, but that get-up is just creeping me out!"
Go ahead, admit it. You know you're jealous of my natural beauty!
Welcome to the Arctic! This space is dedicated to observations and experiences related to daily life in the Inupiat Eskimo village of Atqasuk. Questions and comments are invited. Thanks for visiting! Quyanaqpaq!
nuna:tundra, the land atikluk:snow shirt, parka cover
Interested in Inuit culture? Check out these films...
The Fast Runner is an excellent representation of ancient Inuit culture. The R-rating is for nudity, violence, and some language. Subtitles are utilized throughout. I do not recommend this film for children, but it's an extremely accurate portrayal of the culture. It was introduced to me by an Inupiat woman who raved about it. And I agree!
For a preview, click here.
The Snow Walker is another excellent representation of Inuit culture circa 1940's. This film is rated PG, I'm guessing for language. No subtitles that I remember. It starts a little slow, but gets much better. It will leave you with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the survival skills of this culture.
For a preview, click here.
Great For Kids!
Whale Snow by Debby Dahl Edwardson is a warm and culturally sensitive story centered on the Inupiat subsistence tradition of whaling. It is available in both English and Inupiaq translation. The illustrations, by Annie Patterson are exquisite and add to the quiet softness that the story inspires.
To order this title on Amazon.com, click here.
The Alaska Geographic series is an excellent informational resource. The edition entitled North Slope Now deals exclusively with this area and even features relatives of my students. Although it was published in 1989, it is still current enough to provide a general understanding of culture, lifestyle, and issues faced by this northern-most region.
To order this title from Alaska Geographic, click here.
More about Kaktovik Disaster of 2005 (from Dec post, "The Edge")