M976.148 | Dancing cap

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Dancing cap
Anonyme - Anonymous
Central Arctic
Inuit: Inuinnaq (Kilusiktormiut)
About 1968, 20th century
Caribou, hare and weasel fur, loon skin, feathers and beak, sinew, felt, caribou hide
19 x 37 cm
Purchased from Mme Huguette Guay
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Hat (75)
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Keys to History

Social events where feasting, dancing, and games take place strengthen community bonds, honour ancestors, restrain anti-social conduct and relieve tension. Communal gatherings celebrate a successful hunt, make contact with the spirits, welcome visitors and make the time pass pleasantly. For such occasions people put on their best clothes. Most notable is the Kilusiktormiut dancing cap that features a loon skin with the beak upraised from which dangles an ermine skin. Because of its complex construction, the dancing cap was a luxury at celebrations, being shared freely by men and women participants.

Throughout the Arctic, from Siberia to Kalaallit Nunaat, the loon has a mystical and symbolic significance. Because of its call, it is known as the bird of song and eloquence, and by its presence on dancing caps it takes part in celebrations. The loon is associated with vision, both for the layperson and the shaman. In a recurring Inuit legend, the loon restores eyesight to a blind child. There is no faster water bird, and whoever wears clothing associated with the loon will acquire its speed as well as vision.

  • What

    This cap is made up of fine white (pukiq) and dark brown (quirnik) caribou fur strips. A wide band of pukiq surrounds the face and the soft fur of Arctic hare circles the lower edge. Midway between front and back the seamstress has inserted a band of loon skin with the head of the bird projecting upward. From the loon's beak dangles a whole ermine skin.

  • Where

    The style of this cap is unique to the Kilusiktormiut, whose territories span the vast lands northwest of Hudson Bay west to those of the Inuvialuit.

  • When

    This cap is a replica of one in the possession of the seamstress about 1968.

  • Who

    The cap was commissioned to be made by a Kilusiktormiut seamstress at Qurluqtuuq (Coppermine, Nunavut) by Jean Paul Peloquin for the Conseil des Arts Canadiens Esquimaux.