Kuspuks: Traditional Alaskan Couture
This is my daughter Sophia performing her first Alaskan native dance in her kuspuk my mother-in-law Jean made.
A kuspuk is traditional Yupik native attire. It’s extremely comfortable and functional, and it’s worn by both women and men. Depending on the season, they may be made with cool cotton fabrics or lined with fur. Some come with skirts and others are more like parkas.
Kuspuks are worn while berry picking, cleaning game, hunting, dancing, etc. The more formal the occasion, the fancier the kuspuk.
Kuspuk Day at Work is becoming more and more popular in Alaska. The women in my school have a Kuspuk Day about twice a month. They look great and it forms a bond between old Alaskan traditions for all the women that wear them, both native and non-native alike.
Now they just need to convince the men in my school that it’s a manly thing to wear too!
Here are some links where you can see more pictures and buy patterns and kuspuks:
Images from AlaskaStock.com
Patterns at NorthernThreads.com
Kuspuks for sale at Etsy.com
Recognize the kuspuk wearer below?
Also, you can search YouTube and find several videos of traditional dancing in kuspuks, but you have to see Alaskan legend, Mary Ann Sundown, also known as the Yup’ik Dance Diva, in the video below (she’s in turquoise). Mary Ann sadly passed away in 2011, but will always be remembered for her energy and passion for dancing, no matter the music genre. From ADN.com:
In private life, she was an industrious homemaker, adept at skinning a seal, stitching a kuspuk or ceremonial dance headpiece from fur, or whipping up a bowl of akutaq — then relaxing in front of the television set.
“She saw changes from a very traditional lifestyle to a world of technology, right down to her remote control,” said Jones. “She loved what she called her ‘lemote.’ “
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(Featured image inset of Mary Ann Sundown by ADN.com)
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