Book describes journey of Alutiiq masks

Giinaquq (Like A Face), the University of Alaska Press best-selling book of 2009, describes how the Alutiiq people on Kodiak Island reconnected with ceremonial masks that were taken from them in the late 1800s.

A French anthropologist collected more than 70 masks and donated them to the Château-Musée de Boulogne-sur-Mer in France. It was only about 10 years ago that Sven Haakanson, the executive director of the Alutiiq Museum, and others learned of their existence.

Haakanson soon began an effort to bring the masks to the Alutiiq people. The French museum was reluctant at first but soon learned of the collection's importance.

"(The Alaskans) cried when they got in the room with the masks, they were just overcome," book editor Amy Steffian tells The Juneau Empire.

The French eventually agreed to allow about 34 masks to be displayed temporarily in the Alutiiq Museum, where they were studied and documented. The book contains photos of 76 masks, along with text in English, Alutiiq and French.

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Reclaiming tradition (The Juneau Empire 10/8)