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Found 947 Collections

 

The Story of America in the Holocaust


Through this curation, one can see a clear story path. It all begins with the struggles that started in Europe that forced these refugees to attempt to flee to asylum. Getting to America, for those trying to escape, was a very difficult feat due to new legislation and American stubbornness towards immigrants. For those lucky enough to get to America, they soon discovered that this “sanctuary” held many of the same prejudice and anti semitic beliefs that were forged in Europe. Overall, this curation was made to track the struggles of Jews through all stages in their journey to America.

MADDIE YP
16
 

The St. Lawrence Island Yupik People and Their Culture

By Paapi Merlin Koonooka (St. Lawrence Island Yupik ), 2009

(This is shortened version of a longer essay from the Smithsonian book Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska.)


Sea, Land, Rivers

Sivuqaq, the Yupik name for St. Lawrence Island, rises out of the Bering Sea in the heart of a vast and bountiful marine ecosystem. All around us, depending on the time of year, we have walrus, whales and seals. Standing on the point at Gambell, you can watch ducks and seabirds flying by in endless motion over the sea. Our island lies just below the Arctic Circle, so the winters are long and often extreme. The wind gusts at fifty miles per hour, and the wind chill can get to minus fifty degrees Fahrenheit or lower. When spring and summer bring longer daylight and new life, people travel out from the villages of Gambell and Savoonga to their hunting and fishing camps around the island. Many of those places are ancient settlements where our ancestors lived up to two thousand years ago.

I was born and raised in Gambell and have been a subsistence hunter there for my entire life, going back to when we traveled with dog teams instead of on snow machines and all-terrain vehicles. Marine mammals, fish, birds, eggs, reindeer and wild plants are important in the island diet throughout the year, far more so than store-bought foods. On the tundra and mountainsides people gather ququngaq (willow leaf), nunivak (roseroot), angukaq (dwarf fireweed) and various edible roots. In late summer the aqavzik (cloudberry) and pagunghaq (crowberry) ripen.

Walrus have always been essential to our way of life. We hunt them in open water and later on the frozen ocean, making use of nearly everything as either food or material. The meat and fat are bundled into large tuugtuq (meatballs) to store in underground food cellars, and in the past that meat sustained our dog teams as well. Good-quality hides of female walrus are stretched, split, cured and stitched to cover the angyapik (hunting boat). Walrus stomachs become heads for drums, and their intestines, ivory and whiskers are transformed into adornment and art. Our predecessors used the skins to make tough rope and covers for the nenglu (traditional house) and interior aargha (sleeping room). They spun walrus sinew into thread and carved the tusks into tools and sled runners.

I am a whaling captain like my grandfather, granduncles and father before me, and I serve on the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission. Traditionally, the captain prepared for whaling in a religious way, using charms, special songs and rituals that showed the great respect we feel for this animal. While these rituals are no longer practiced, strict hunting protocols and the responsibility of the captain remain unchanged. A bowhead whale is so immense and powerful that hunters, even though armed with modern weapons, are really at its mercy. We use skin-covered boats and sails rather than motors during the approach, keeping absolute silence, because whales have a very sharp sense of hearing. But they know we are there even if there is no sound. That is why we say that a whale decides to let itself be taken, not the other way around. One whale provides an abundance of food that is shared with families on the island and across Alaska.

Our hunting lifestyle has never been harmful to the animal species. Nature has her own way of opening up the ice and sea for us or withholding access. During storms we have to stay at home and wait for a change. When the weather is nice, the conditions may still not be right for going out, even if walrus are floating by on top of the ice floes. Sometimes we will be punished this way if we’ve failed in our respect. But as long as the creatures make themselves available to us, we will gather them for food and traditional needs.


Community and Family

The people of the island have close ties to the Yupik communities of Ungaziq and Sireniki on the Siberian coast, and we speak dialects of the same language. Before the cold war began in the late 1940s, our families traveled back and forth to visit, trade and seek marriage partners. The forty-mile trip took a full day in a skin boat using sail and paddles. Visits resumed in the 1980s after glasnost took hold in Russia, and now with a fast powerboat and calm seas, the crossing takes only two or three hours.

Some of my best memories from childhood are of traveling with my dad. He had a wonderful dog team, and in the wintertime we would go on the sled to trap white fox. Even in the summer we’d take it across the gravel and tundra. When I started raising a family I did the same thing. We would hitch up a team of twelve dogs to pull our heavy sled, which was nine feet long with steel runners. As a child you really look forward to going out with your parents and elders for food gathering and hunting, because you want to learn.

I sometimes think of early days when everyone was living in nenglut (traditional houses). They would go seal hunting on the ice, pulling whale baleen toboggans behind them to bring back the meat. You had a backpack and a rifle slung over your shoulders and an ice tester to see where it was safe to walk. You had to observe the ice and the direction it was moving, making sure not to get caught on an outgoing current. Boys were doing all that by the age of ten or twelve, and by fifteen you had to know everything. Your parents and elders made sure you were ready, or you weren’t allowed to go alone.

Our culture is changing rapidly in some ways, more slowly in others. Fluency in the Yupik language is declining in the younger generations, although among the older people our daily conversation continues to be in Yupik. There is less respect among some young people now for their parents and elders, too much television and video gaming, problems with drugs and alcohol. We need to find a balance between traditional and modern ways, and I believe the best way to do that is through education. If you can be successful in your formal education, you will be in a strong position to help preserve your Yupik heritage. I’m glad to see so many young people still going out with their families to the places where we have always hunted and fished, even if now they travel on machines instead of on foot or by dog sled. They are still eating the same foods that we have always gathered and staying connected to our land and way of life.

 

Ceremony and Celebration

The remoteness of the island has helped to sustain some of the ways of our forebears. The practices of atuq and aghula (Yupik drumming, singing and dancing) were never interrupted, despite the introduction of Christianity, and people continue to compose new songs and motions. Both communities on the island hold dance celebrations where we welcome visitors and performers from mainland Alaska, Russia and beyond. Other ceremonies are more family-oriented, marking life events such as marriage and the birth and naming of a child. When a young person catches his first seal, a special small celebration is held to share the catch with relatives, making sure that everyone gets a taste. The same thing happens with your first bird.

Many of the former ceremonial practices pertained to hunting, especially whaling. To prepare for the season, a captain would use certain songs that were specific to each clan. The purpose was to please the whale spirits. When the hunters captured a whale, the boats would come back in a line with the successful captain and crew in front. Everyone was deeply thankful, and they celebrated by feasting, singing and dancing. That feeling of appreciation and gratitude for the food that has been provided is just as strong today, even though our beliefs and customs have been modified.

The Yupik culture has a very long, rich history, and at the Smithsonian you will see artifacts that our ancestors created hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Today many of the island’s residents are world-renowned Native artists whose work is shown in national and international museums and art galleries. Some of the ivory they use comes from archaeological sites, and this material, crucial to sustaining life generations ago, is equally important today because of the income generated by art sales. But much more than that, their work is a celebration of our culture, heritage and continuing way of life.

Tags: St. Lawrence Island Yupik, Yupik, Alaska Native, Indigenous, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
20
 

The Soul's Expression: Identity, Individuality, & the Spirit in Visual Art

Art provides a pathway for individuals to express their inner self while also capturing the outer—this great wide world so intricate it's difficult to define.  Throughout history, humans have sought to  comprehend both their environment and their own inherent cultural uniqueness. This search has become symbolized in their artistic accomplishments and aesthetic heritage. Whether through representations of specific individuals and the human figure or awe-inspiring works of architecture, these art pieces are a window into the creative core of our past. 

In this collection, we will observe the ways in which the soul/spirit has been expressed in art, and how human creativity sheds light upon both individual and cultural identities and its varied interpretations throughout the ages. This collection is organized in three symbolic steps on a stone staircase entitled "The Stone Path of Eternity." To truly travel through each piece, I have included an image, a brief description of the work under information, and then, signified by the yellow (1) above, I've provided my own analysis and interpretation of the piece in its relationship to the collection theme. 

Through lingering through the "Stone Path of Eternity," which is represented by the first two tiles, we will from one stone to the next in seeking the many ways in which the soul's expression can be defined. 

In Stone Number One, "The Spirit's Encased Construct," we'll see how architecture and large-scale artistic projects merge to reflect both cultural identity and the individuality of their leaders through works from ancient Babylonia, Egypt, the Byzantine Empire and into the combinations made possible by the aesthetic  innovations of modern times. 

Shifting step to Stone Number Two, "Human Identity Immortalized in Matter," we delve into the ways in which the human figure is represented and what these images can share with us in terms of the varying levels, purposes, intentions behind the artist's created expressions and impact of depicting the Spirit on Earth. This idea is exemplified in creations ranging from the Paleolithic period to modern times, with examples from Egypt, Ancient Greece,  the Italian Renaissance and the 20th century popular culture. 

Finally, in Stone Number Three,"Individuals and Spirituality Entwine," we step into the door of the spirit directly, traveling through the many methods which cultures apply in trying to simultaneously convey and understand what realms are in union with and beyond this life.  Some cultures who address this idea in their artistic tradition are seen in instances of Egyptian art and work from ancient and Hellenistic Greece, as well as both the Italian Renaissance, Northern European Renaissance, and contemporary Western art. 

 The intended audience for this collection is just as varied as my subject matter. Those who might be drawn to this collection are people attracted to the enigmas of life and death, who have questioned their place in society and the mysteries this world has to hold, and are curious to know more about how, historically, cultures have related to these probing questions—for, as you will see, they certainly have existed as long as humans have walked the earth. No matter if you're in high school, college, or beyond formal education, I hope you will find my musings on these artworks and their meanings compelling and thought-provoking. 

Renowned artist and poet William Blake once wrote, "To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour."   From the most abstract art to the remarkably realistic, there is always an image of ourselves, in the an esoteric sense, waiting to be found within.  With its timeless method, Art seeks to create a definition for this all-encompassing and ever-evading essence and I hope to continue that quest with you as we explore this collection. #AHMC2019

Emma Geller
30
 

The Smithsonian's Caribbean Indigenous Legacies Project: Celebrating Taíno Culture

This topical collection contains information about the Smithsonian's Caribbean Indigenous Legacies Project: Celebrating Taíno Culture, with links to the Heye Center exhibition, "Taíno : Native Heritage and Identity in the Caribbean," and to a related public program/webcast, "Taíno: A Symposium in Conversation with the Movement," from the National Museum of the American Indian. 

Philippa Rappoport
6
 

The Search for an American Identity: Smithsonian-Montgomery College Faculty Fellowship 2019 Opening Panel Resources

This collection serves as an introduction to the opening panel of the 2019 Smithsonian-Montgomery College Faculty Fellowship Program. This year's theme is “The Search for an American Identity: Building a Nation Together.” Three Smithsonian staff members will present at the opening panel, including David Penney (Associate Director of Research and Scholarship at the National Museum of the American Indian), Ranald Woodaman (Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs at the Smithsonian Latino Center), and Paula Johnson (Curator at the National Museum of American History). Their bios, presentation descriptions, and other resources are included inside.

As you explore the resources be sure to jot down any questions you may have for the presenters. 

It's going to be a great seminar series!


#MCteach

Philippa Rappoport
17
 

The Search for an American Identity

We live in a multicultural, multilingual, multinational America, which offers complicated, imposing, unsettling questions about American identity.  There are no easy answers to what is an American identity or perhaps no answers at all.  What is an American identity is an important subject in an ever changing America, and Smithsonian Institution exhibits and objects on display in various museums help us to seek answers to the question of what is identity and what is American identity.

Mimi Mann
156
 

The Science of Wind and Sound through Artwork

Artwork, museums, and the community are powerful resources to bring concepts to life with young children. This collection provides examples of how to utilize museums and the community to explore STEM concepts, specifically the science of wind and sound through artwork. 

This collection was created to support the 2018 CCSSO Teacher of the Year Day at the Smithsonian.  

#NTOY18

Brooke Shoemaker
18
 

The Roman Empire

As I am writing this I am sitting in a cafe shop in a small town on an island Sardinia in Italy. To this day, the remains of the Roman Empire and it's architecture can be found all over the island, which sparked an interest in me for that great culture and it makes me want to focus this project on that. This project focuses on the architecture of the great Roman empire and the influence that the architecture of the Roman Empire, changes in the way this Culture express itself trough architecture and art work within that architecture. When traveling to a new place, I believe the first thing people notice is the architecture and then they look within. This is exactly what this project will try to do.   

This collection will focus on art throughout of history or Roman Empire and Italy as we know it today. It will start from the Ancient Greece where early Roman Empire drew most of it’s inspiration for art  and architecture and connect various different forms of art and how it interacted with the history of this great nation. I hope you enjoy the collection. 

 #AHMC2019

Ivan Abramovic
18
 

The Respect of Ancient Egyptian Women and Their Role In Society Through Visual Art

I come from a family of very strong and independent women, and I was raised in a feminist household and was taught that there is power in femininity. When I began at UMASS online, I immediately chose Gender Studies as one of my concentrations as I am fascinated with woman’s evolution through time. While we are only just now on the brink of true equality, there are some examples from specific cultures in history that show the power of women. I chose to look closely at Egypt from its earliest cultures through the New Kingdom. My hope is that this collection will exemplify the power that was evident in a woman in this time period. My main sources of study were Arts and Culture: An Introduction to the Humanities, and the Smithsonian Lab.

Visual art can be an influential force. I feel that it is a direct and tangible example of how the artist sees it’s subject (person, place, object, thought or idea), and that perception is molded by culture, values, lessons, and history. Reactions to visual art can spark debate, deeper thought, an emotional response, or even desire to learn more about the culture or time period it was created. I hope what I have put together here will spark one of those things in my viewers. I really hope that it will put our view of women into perspective. We have evolved so much since this time in our thoughts of equality, worth, capability, representation and I hope to show that in following collections with examples from different cultures and time periods.

In Arts and Culture: An Introduction to the Humanities there is a section in Chapter 1 about Queen Hatshepsut and how she was viewed as a powerful and important ruling figure in a male dominated world. I think this is important to note as we don’t read very much about women figureheads during this time. She was respected, trusted, and listened to. She was valued by her people which is exemplified in her tomb. It is described in the text as, “constructed of repeated elements- colonnaded terraces with columnar porticoes…halls, and private chambers. The three terraces are connected by ramps to the cliff…These chambers are chapels to the god Amen; to the cow-headed goddess Hathor, who protects the dead; and to the queen herself…sculpture was used lavishly; there were perhaps two hundred statues in Hatshepsut’s funerary temple” (Benton 27). It bears noting the love and respect for one woman in 1458 B.C.E. Women were also praised in the form of goddesses, ruling over things such as truth, justice, order, hunt, etc.

What I have put together in this collection represents the significance of women at this point in history.    

Benton, Janetta Rebold, and Robert DiYanni. Arts and Culture: an Introduction to the Humanities. Pearson, 2014.

#AHMC2019

Dana Cox
6
 

The Renwick Gallery

musekooo
118
 

The Process of Invention

This collection uses objects from the National Museum of American History to describe the process of invention--from the "think it" step, when inventors come up with a great idea, to the prototyping or "create it" step, all the way through the "sell it" or marketing stage.

This collection was created to support the 2016 CCSSO Teachers of the Year Day at the Smithsonian.
Tricia Edwards
7
 

The Pride of a Pitcher: Pedro Martinez

How do we represent our roots artistically? What can a portrait tell us about the sense of identity of the subject? Focusing on a famous athlete from the Dominican Republic, students will explore the personal history of the pitcher, Pedro Martínez, and how his cultural pride is portrayed on canvas. Class members will read a recent biography of Martínez before examining his portrait, Pride and Determination, currently on exhibition in Twentieth-Century Americans: 1990 to Present. #NPGteach

Patrick Bonner
7
 

The Presence of Absence: An Exploration of Misrepresentation and Underpresentation

How do contemporary artists grapple with the under- and misrepresentation of certain minorities in portraiture and American history? Participants will explore the newly unveiled portraits of President Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley and former First Lady Michelle Obama by Amy Sherald and discuss how these artists are looking to the past to paint the present. After close reading these images, participants will consider how artists Ken Gonzales-Day and Titus Kaphar, in the exhibition “UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light,” uncover voices previously unheard. 

#NPGteach

Briana White
19
 

The Power of Cats in Egypt in 30 BC Copy

Voice Over about Egyptian Cats and Gods  #CIEDigitalStoryTelling for Ellis by Katheerin Dimieri 4th prd 

KATHEERIN DIMIERI
21
 

The Power of A Woman Represented in Visual Art During A Time Of Repression: Renaissance and Baroque Periods

I created this second collection to build on the topic of my first: The Portrayal of Powerful Women Through Visual Art. I began the introduction of my previous collection with an explanation of why I chose this topic. I will repeat that when I began at UMASS online, I immediately chose Gender Studies as one of my concentrations as I am fascinated with woman’s evolution through time. Art is the perfect time capsule to look at such a topic over time and I began with the first collection focusing on Egyptian Art. In this collection I will look at the representation of women in Renaissance art and some Baroque art. Again, my hope is that this collection will exemplify the power that was evident in a woman in this time period. My main sources of study were Arts and Culture: An Introduction to the Humanities, and the Smithsonian Lab.

Art is an important way to document our collective present so that future generations may have greater understanding of our ways of thinking, values and more. Norman Rockwell's iconic paintings are a window into the lives of ordinary people in the 20th century. Reaching further back into time, the cave paintings of the prehistoric era provide one of the last few glimpses into how these people lived and their religious and moral values. Art is a product of its time. It is a result of the social, political, and religious context in which it was made. Visual art is one of the best ways to understand women of a certain time period. In the Renaissance Era, women had no personal option in the choice of a marriage partner. The role of women continued to be to serve their husbands because the church, communal and judicial laws that at this time favored the ambitions of men. It seemed that Renaissance women were cast into a subservient state from the time of birth. Despite these values, I think that the power of a woman is still evident in art.

One piece in particular, which I have included in the collection, is The Birth of Venus by Botticelli. It immediately caught my eye when I turned to that page in our textbook. Venus is depicted standing upright in an oversized clamshell, her posture is unstable and off balance, her hands attempt to modestly cover her statuesque beauty as her long, golden hair billows in the breeze. She rises from the sea looking like a classical statue and floating on a seashell. Time seems to stop around her, and she stands alone, captivating the viewer with her gaze. She is the goddess of love and holds us all under her spell. This is just one example of representation of a woman in Renaissance art.

What I have put together in this collection represents the significance of women at this point in history.   

Benton, Janetta Rebold, and Robert DiYanni. Arts and Culture: an Introduction to the Humanities. Pearson, 2014.

#AHMC2019  

Dana Cox
6
 

The Portrayal of Powerful Women In Visual Art: A Study Spanning Ancient Egypt, Baroque and Renaissance eras, Through Impressionism, and Pop and Modern Art

This third and final collection “The Portrayal of Powerful Women In Visual Art: A Study Spanning Ancient Egypt, Baroque and Renaissance Periods, Through Impressionism, and Pop and Modern Art” has been building up since the beginning of this project. I cannot stress enough how passionate I am about representing women as strong and powerful beings and I think it is so important to look back over history and find the times that was done despite attitudes towards women. Women have always been viewed as the weaker sex, until very recently in fact. However, the quiet and prevailing strength of women has a thread that is woven back to the dawn of time. As I have stated in a previous collection, visual art is an important way to document our collective present so that future generations may have greater understanding of our ways of thinking, values and more. My goal for these collections was to exemplify the power that was evident in a woman over time and I feel that I have achieved that. This collection spans time and cultures including ancient Egypt, the Renaissance and Baroque periods, Impressionism, and pop and modern art. Influential, resilient, and robust women always have and always will have a role to play in visual art.

For my museum paper, I took a close look at impressionism, especially Claude Monet (see the final tile in the collection). “Camille Monet on a Garden Bench” by Claude Monet is an oil on canvas, impressionist painting capturing Monet’s first wife, Camille, whom he painted often.  Impressionism came to be in France in the middle of the nineteenth century and Claude Monet is one of the names you immediately associate with this style of painting. Monet is a household name in the realm of impressionist painting and “Camille Monet on a Garden Bench” is just one of the many famous works he produced in his lifetime. In this painting, her expression is one of quiet defeat and her large, dark eyes seem exhausted as if she is mentally somewhere else while her gaze is fixed directly on the viewer. Her body is hunched over rather than up straight to greet her neighbor. The viewer feels her sadness and I think that is in part because of the contrast in the image. The rest of the painting is bright, sunny and filled with color, things associated with happiness and lightness. Camille is clothed in a dark, heavy looking dress seemingly under the shadow of a tree which I interpret as the metaphorical cloud hanging over her with the sad news of her fathers passing. Monet captures her strength and femininity all at once.

Pop and modern art seem much more literal in what it expresses and is an excellent reflection of society at that point in time. While women still weren’t considered equal, they were still being depicted in visual art and it was typically women of high standard and fame. These women were respected in their fields and were considered icons of their generation; women like Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, even Queen Elizabeth II. Visual art and its representation of a woman’s place in society still had a long way to go, but by looking at the women, we can tell they know their strength and that is what’s most important.

What I have put together in this collection represents the significance of women at points through history and I hope you will take something away from it. I hope it will spark debate, deeper thought, an emotional response, or even desire to learn more about the culture or time period being represented.

#AHMC2019 

Dana Cox
19
 

The Native American Struggle for Treaty Rights and Tribal Sovereignty

This collection serves as a preview for the sixth (final) of six seminar sessions in the 2018 Smithsonian-Montgomery College Faculty Fellowship Program. This year's theme is “We the People: America’s Grand and Radical Experiment with Democracy.”

National Museum of American Indian colleagues Mark Hirsch, David Penney, and Colleen Call Smith will explore the past, present, and future of treaties between the United States and Native nations, and show how American Indians have drawn on these 18th- and 19th -century agreements to defend tribal rights and exercise political sovereignty in the 20th and 21st centuries.  They will also discuss their efforts to integrate the exhibition's main themes and messages into the museum’s “Native Knowledge 360°” initiative, a national educational program designed to change the way American Indian histories, cultures, and contemporary lives are taught in K-12 classrooms.

Resources included in this collection have been chosen by the presenters for participants to explore before the seminar itself.

#MCteach

Philippa Rappoport
8
 

The National Numismatic Collection's East Asian Currency Highlights

Established in the mid-19th century, several of the earliest additions to the NNC were artifacts from Japan, Korea, and China, including coins and medals gifted to President Ulysses S. Grant from Japanese Emperor Meiji (received in 1881) and the 2,025 East Asian coins, amulets, and notes from George Bunker Glover’s private collection (received in 1897). These donations were the foundation of the NNC’s East Asian holdings, which continues to grow with new acquisitions, such as the Howard F. Bowker collection in 2017. 

Emily Pearce Seigerman
94
 

The Music in Poetry

Lessons in this issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom introduce students to the rhythms of poetry. The focus is on two poetic forms that originated as forms of song: the ballad stanza, found throughout British and American literature, and the blues stanzas of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. Poetry is put into terms of movement, physical space, and, finally, music.

Click the PDF icon to download the issue. Click on the boxes (then click again on "View original") for audio samples of ballads and blues from the Smithsonian Folkways archives.

Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access
6
 

The Museum Idea

Museums and galleries play an important role in society. They preserve the past, enrich the present, and inspire the future. In this lesson, students will take a close look at museums, why they exist, and what the people who work in them do. By the end of the lesson, student's will create their own "Museum of Me." 

This lesson was inspired by an issue of Smithsonian's Art to Zoo and includes Minecraft: Education Edition extensions. It is part of the  2017 Museum Day Live! STEM Challenge

DOWNLOAD THE PDF TO COMPLETE THIS LESSON.

Museum Day Live!
10
 

The Monsters of Our Minds or The Monsters of This Earth

For decades humans have depicted art in various forms that consist of monsters. This made me ask myself; what exactly is a monster? These pieces of art consist of images that their creators describe as monsters. I am going to delve in to the history behind these objects and symbols to figure out if they are really monsters or if our ideas of what makes an object or a person a monster skewed.

mariana addo
15
 

The Mayans

This collection was created for Honors World Studies to be an introduction to the Maya Civilization. Items in this collection were found via Smithsonian Learning Lab and additional outside research. Appropriate citations have been included.

Amelia Ingraham
12
 

The Iñupiaq People and Their Culture

By Beverly Faye Hugo (Iñupiaq ), 2009

(This is shortened version of a longer essay from the Smithsonian book Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska.)


Sea, Land, Rivers

There’s ice and snow, the ocean and darkness – darkness in the winter and twenty-four hours of daylight in the summer. Barrow was originally called Utqiaġvik (meaning, “the place where ukpik, the snowy owl, nests”). That’s where my people, the Iñupiat, have survived and lived, and I am doing as they have done. On the Arctic coast you can see vast distances in all directions, out over the ocean and across the land. The country is very flat, with thousands of ponds and lakes, stretching all the way to the Brooks Range in the south. It is often windy, and there are no natural windbreaks, no trees, only shrubs. Beautiful flowers grow during the brief summer season. The ocean is our garden, where we hunt the sea mammals that sustain us. Throughout the year some seasonal activity is going on. We are whaling in the spring and fall, when the bowheads migrate past Barrow, going out for seals and walrus, fishing, or hunting on the land for caribou, geese, and ducks.

Whaling crews are made up of family members and relatives, and everyone takes part. The spring is an exciting time when the whole community is focused on the whales, hoping to catch one. The number we are permitted to take each year is set by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission and the International Whaling Commission. Whaling is not for the faint of heart. It can be dangerous and takes an incredible amount of effort – getting ready, waiting for the whales, striking and pulling and towing them. But the men go out and do it because they want to feed the community. Everyone has to work hard throughout the whaling season. People who aren’t able to go out on the ice help in other ways, such as buying supplies and gas or preparing food. You have to make clothing for them; they need warm parkas, boots, and snow pants.

We believe that a whale gives itself to a captain and crew who are worthy people, who have integrity – that is the gift of the whale. Caring for whales, even after you’ve caught them, is important. After a whale is caught and divided up, everyone can glean meat from the bones. Each gets his share, even those who don’t belong to a crew. No one is left out.

We are really noticing the effects of global warming. The shorefast ice is much thinner in spring than it used to be, and in a strong wind it will sometimes break away. If you are out on the ice, you have to be extremely conscious of changes in the wind and current so that you will not be carried off on a broken floe. We are concerned as well about the effects of offshore drilling and seismic testing by the oil companies. They try to work with the community to avoid problems, but those activities could frighten the whales and be detrimental to hunting.

 

Community and Family

Iñupiaq residents of Barrow, Wales, Point Hope, Wainwright, and other coastal communities, are the Taġiuqmiut, “people of the salt.” People who live in the interior are the Nunamiut, “people of the land.” The Nunamiut used to be nomadic, moving from camp to camp with their dog teams, hunting and fishing to take care of their families. They packed light and lived in skin tents, tracking the caribou and mountain sheep. My husband, Patrick Hugo, was one of them. For the first six years of his life his family traveled like that, but when the government built a school at Anaktuvuk Pass in 1959 they settled there.

 My parents, Charlie and Mary Edwardson, were my foremost educators. They taught me my life skills and language. When I came to awareness as a young child, all the people who took care of me spoke Iñupiaq, so that was my first language. Our father would trap and hunt. We never went hungry and had the best furs for our parkas. Our mother was a fine seamstress, and we learned to sew by helping her. My mother and grandmother taught us to how to care for a family and to do things in a spirit of cooperation and harmony.

I was a child during the Bureau of Indian Affairs era, when we were punished for speaking Iñupiaq in school. My first day in class was the saddest one of my young life. I had to learn English, and that was important, but my own language is something that I value dearly and have always guarded. It is a gift from my parents and ancestors, and I want to pass it on to my children and grandchildren and anyone who wants to learn.

 

Ceremony and Celebration

Nalukataq (blanket toss) is a time of celebration when spring whaling has been successful. It is a kind of all-day picnic. People visit with friends and family at the windbreaks that the crews set up by tipping the whale boats onto their sides. At noon they serve niġliq (goose) soup, dinner rolls, and tea. At around 3:00 P.M. we have mikigaq,made of fermented whale meat, tongue, and skin. At 5:00 they serve frozen maktak (whale skin and blubber) and quaq (raw frozen fish). It’s wonderful to enjoy these foods, to talk, and catch up with everyone at the end of the busy whaling season.

Kivgik, the Messenger Feast, was held in the qargi (ceremonial house). The umialgich (whaling captains) in one community sent messengers to the leaders of another, inviting them and their families to come for days of feasting, dances, and gift giving. They exchanged great quantities of valuable things – piles of furs, sealskins filled with oil, weapons, boats, and sleds. That took place until the early years of the twentieth century, when Presbyterian missionaries suppressed our traditional ceremonies, and many of the communal qargich in the villages were closed down.

 In 1988, Mayor George Ahmaogak Sr. thought it was important to revitalize some of the traditions from before the Christian era, and Kivgik was started again. Today it is held in the high school gymnasium. People come to Barrow from many different communities to take part in the dancing and maġgalak, the exchange of gifts. You give presents to people who may have helped you or to those whom you want to honor.  Kivgiq brings us together as one people, just as it did in the time of our ancestors.

Tags: Iñupiaq, Inupiaq, Alaska Native, Indigenous, Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska

Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center in Alaska
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The Impact of Color in Paintings

This collection includes paintings of similar subjects  (women) presented in both black and white and in color. The objective of this project is for students to recognize and think about the impact of color on their interpretations.  Identify responses to color and think about it as one of the artist's tools for conveying meaning.

 

Tags: Elizabeth McCausland; Childe Hassam; Antonia de Banuelos; Angel Rodriguez-Diaz; William H. Johnson

Samantha Castaneda
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