Kelsey Ciugun Wallace a Yup’ik Eskimo from Bethel in southwest Alaska on the Kuskokwim River.
Kelsey is wearing a beautiful Kuskokwim style tasseled mink parka made by Anna Hedlund Alexie and Elsie Chimegalrea. The parka is made of 32 mink caught by Sammy Chimegalrea and belongs to Letha Chimegalrea Simon.
Traditionally, Yup’iks from different areas and families each had their own parka styles. This parka is the traditional style from Piangaq, a traditional village that no longer exists today. It represents a story of the Yup’ik people. During warring times, the opposing tribe left one surviving warrior so that he would go home and tell the story to his people. The tassels that adorn the front and back are symbolic of the bow and arrow of that warring incident. Each of the tassels has fine details. The top of the tassel has a sealskin piece, below that is a piece of white calfskin. They are trimmed with a fine strip of wolf and land otter. The two strips of tassels are wolverine, the backs of which are dyed red from tree bark. The fine black line represents the bow that was placed across the chest of the warrior. The middle is adorned with beads and a small piece of red yarn, which represents the arrow. The white pieces of calfskin on the body and the underside of the arms are symbolic of the reindeer fat that the warrior was fed by his captors.
The geometric border is made of black and white calfskin pieces sewn together, which is trimmed with a strip of land otter and a strip of wolverine. The facing of the wolf ruff has a strip of land otter trimmed with wolverine.
Kelsey is wearing a traditional dance headdress adorned with beads. The fur that is sewn together is wolverine and wolf. This headdress is made by the late Cakuucin Elizabeth Tunucuk of Toksook Bay. The headdress is generally used by women during Yup’ik dancing.
Kelsey’s piluguqs are Kuskokwim style womens’ mukluks called ciivaguaqs which are made from calfskin with strips of land otter fur. The hanging tassles are made from strips of otter and the soles are made from sealskin. These piluguqs are made by a Yup’ik elder, Lucy Beaver, who is over one hundred years old.
Her mittens are by her aunt, Inuqaar Carrie Dahl of Nunapicuaq. The fur is made out of beaver with leather handles. Her traditional beaded earrings are made by the late Qak’aq Cherilyn Neck of Bethel, are called agluarutet hang from earlobe along the jawbone to the next earlobe. She is also a wearing beaded necklace made by her cousin Mataralria Allison Dahl. Her necklace reflects the Yup’ik primary colors red, white and black. Red signifies our lifeblood and connects us all as one, white signifies the heavens which represents light in the afterlife, and black represents nighttime and the unknown in the realm of the underworld.
Kelsey is wearing a traditional Kuskokwim style qaspeq that she sewed herself with the guidance from her Yup’ik elder and mentor Julia Cakuli Street of Toksook Bay. Over her qaspeq, she is wearing a traditional dance belt worn by women. This dance belt is called Cipnermiutalek Naqugutpiaq and is made by Chuna McIntyre of Eek. This belt is adorned with black swan feet leather decorated with traditional Yup’ik colors of red, white, black, and rust. It is decorated with swan bones, bone and crystal beads with walrus ivory buttons etched with the Yup’ik design called ellanguaq which represents the universe, the earth, and people. The dot in the center of two circles represents the people living in the center of the universe.