Native Alaskan Woman Dancer Doll—by Ursula Paniyak-Irwin
Ursula Paniyak-Irwin created this Woman Dancer Doll to show one of the women of her region of Alaska performing a Yu’pik fan dance. She used caribou hide for the face and sealskin for the gloves and boots. The long white fur used for the fans is polar bear and the brown fur of the ruff is beaver. The artist has used flowered print fabric for her headscarf and kuspuk, the garment that Native Alaskan women wear to protect their fur parkas. The scraps of animal fur or skin are from animals that are legally harvested or “caught” by the Alaska Native hunters to use for food and handicraft.
Ursula’s mother Rosalie Paniyak began making dolls to sell in the 1950s and became quite well known for her “ugly face dolls.” For many years Ursula has worked closely with her mother and has created many expressive activity dolls such as this dancer.
We obtained this and others of our Native Alaskan dolls through the assistance of the Anchorage Museum. The Native Alaskan doll is 11 in. tall when standing.
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