Kotzebue 7

Production Date: 
ca. 1975
Northwest Arctic Television Center
Run Time: 
KYUK-TV, Bethel, AK

Named locations:
Major themes covered:
Fourth of July Festival in Kotzebue; blanket toss; Eskimo games; Inupiat dancing, chanting, and singing; oral tradition; traditional Eskimo garments (decorated mukluks and parkas)Native activities shown:  
Individuals Named: 
Native language spoken:
Crosslisted with AIFG films:
Kotzebue 1-6 & 8; see especially Kotzebue 2 & 3 for a detailed explanation of the ways that parkas and mukluks are made in accordance with modes of subsistence); See also: Old Dances New Dancers; Cama-I Dance Festival series; A Dancing People-"Yupit Yuraryarait"; St. Mary's Potlatch.

This film has two parts: 1) A portion of the men's and women's blanket toss; a continuation of the games shown in "Kotzebue 5 & 6" (from 00:01-03:00) & 2) A dancing ceremony that mirrors the structure of the dancing ceremony perfomed during The Messenger Feast in the winter (from 03:00-31:23).

Some foundational information about the practice and art of Eskimo/Inupiat dancing ceremonies: "On special occasions, such as Christmas night and Thanksgiving, much of the community's native population gathers in a large room, such as a school gymnasium. They sit or stand against three walls leaving the main floor area clear. In a row along the fourth wall sit about twelve men with their tambourine-like drums, approximately two feet in diameter. Behind them sits a row of women singers. Each dance lasts several minutes and begins with a soft introductory chant. Then the drummers add to the singing their loud heavy beats, while the dancers perform. Anyone from the audience may perform and the composition of each group of dancers changes as some persons step forward onto the floor while others take their seats. The number of dancers during any particular dance varies from one to perhaps fifteen. However, during the climactic last few dances of the evening many more people participate. One leading Inupiat dancer and musician strongly emphasizes that native drumming and dancing have nothing to do with shamanism. He says that many whites think the musical event portrays the performance of a shaman. This individual insists that Inupiat music and dance serve only to entertain and provide enjoyment for all who attend. The dances do not deliberately depict particular scenes or activities, nor do they tell a story, he says. Although some songs contain actual words in the Inupiat language, most are comprised of meaningless syllables. The manifest function of Inupiat dance and musical performances does seem to be entertainment for the community. However, their latent function involves the assertion of ethnic identity." [retrieved from: http://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survivalquarterly/united-states/inupiat-ritual-and-identity]

"North Alaskan whaling communities are currently experiencing a remarkable renaissance in traditional dance and its social context, the inter-village inviting-in. Moreover, there has been a broadening of acceptable dance venues, which now
include performance at urban Native potlaches, political conventions on Native issues, art festivals, statewide dance exhibitions, and special occasions outside the state. Emphasis has shifted from supernatural connotation to secular, from
peacemaking overtures between warring factions to dyadic "twin" communities, from trade and barter to urban shopping expedition for team members, from shaman to lay dance-leader, from traditional gut dancewear to lightweight
colored tunics, from the old to the young, and from local performance to urban stage where both Eskimo and Indian dance is exhibited. New factors influencing dance team membership and performance include employment by the tourist
airlines, introduction to dance and costume making in the schools, frequent distant travel, the hiring of Cultural Aides for extension courses on dance, the fostering of nativism by the powerful Native Corporations, and the worrying loss of many of the knowledgeable elders upon whom the dance teams once relied. This latter has motivated young adults to seek preservation of their waning cultural heritage. Even the missionaries now support what they once labelled the
work of the devil. Inupiat elders make use of mainstream technology to preserve significant dance events such as Eagle-Wolf Dance, recording for posterity on film, videotape, and audiotape. These media are then employed as mementos of deceased and as memorabilia honoring revered ancestors."
-Abstract for Thomas Johnston's article, "Contemporary Emphases in Northern Eskimo Dance"
[retrieved from:


  • Berman, Matthew. "Moving or staying for the best part of life: Theory and evidence for the role of subsistence in migration and well-being of Arctic Inupiat residents." Polar Geography, 32:1-2 (2009): 3-16. Print.  *This source provides a geographic perspective on Inupiat subsistence, as well as  a sense of how subsistence has been preserved and transformed in the 30-40 years since the Kotzebue films were produced.
  • Burch, Ernest S. Social life in northwest Alaska : the structure of Iñupiaq Eskimo nations. Fairbanks: Univ. of Alaska Press, 2006. Print.  *This source discusses the eleven villages and describes the relationship between the different clans and families that represent the different villages.
  • Fienup-Riordan, Ann and Suzi Jones et al. The Artists behind the work: life histories of Nick Charles, Sr., Frances Demientieff, Lena Sours, Jennie Thlunaut. Fairbanks: Univ. of Alaska Museum, 1986. Print.          * This source provides interviews and contextual information with regard to particular artists from different Native Alaskan tribal groups and cultures. Lena Sours is "an Inupiat skin sewer known for her fine parkas." This information complements the information that Blanche Rose provides in "Kotzebue 2 & 3," and further explicates the traditional and ceremonial uses associated with the parka in Inupiat culture and subsistence practices.
  • Ikuta, Hiroko. "We dance because we are Iñupiaq", Iñupiaq dance in Barrow: performance and identity. Thesis (M.A.-Univ. of Alaska). Fairbanks: Univ. of Alaska, 2004. Archival Material.  * This  MA thesis  provides context for the dances as they form, shape, and transform Inupiat individual and cultural identities.
  • Iqitqiramlu and Aluumlu et al. Iñupiat kaminich. Noorvik, Alaska: Aglaktit Nakpigarriuqtuat Program, ca. 1960-1970. Print.  * "This book contains different types of mukłuks from Northwest Alaska. Although we may not have included all the mukłuks from different villages we hope in the future a more advanced text will be made. Each page contains the name of the mukłuk part and what skin or material it is made out of. Also in parenthesis, is the season the mukłuk is worn and by whom. Ex: man, woman, or both. In the back of the book is glossary with definition of some of the Eskimo words. This is to help the younger people today that may have hard time understanding the terms. There is also a work book similar to the text but with out the information. This is so that the bilingual instructors can use it for testing if need be." [retrieved from:  http://universityofarizona.worldcat.org.ezproxy2.library.arizona.edu/title/inupiat-kaminich/oclc/820952130&referer=brief_results]
  • Johnston, Thomas. "Contemporary Emphases in Northern Eskimo Dance." International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, 22:1 (1991): 47-79.  Print. * This source explores contemporary Eskimo dancing and its connections to and divergences from traditional dancing practices. "Kotzebue 7" was produced ca. 1975 and evidence of these contemporary transformations in dancing ceremonies is showcased in the film. The ceremony shown in the film sustains traditional practices by beginning with the performances of male and female elders, but it also diverges with traditional practices by emphasizing the participation of the audience, which contains members of diverse communities and non-native spectators and participants.
  • ---. Inupiat, Yupik, Athabascan, and Tlingit traditional dance: context, meaning, and function in Alaskan native social and ceremonial dance. Fairbanks: T. F. Johnston, 1988. Print.  * Another source that expounds upon the "function" of ritual dance in diverse Native Alaskan tribal groups and cultures.
  • Oakes, Jill and Roderick Riewe et al. Alaska Eskimo Footwear. Fairbanks: Univ. of Alaska Press, 2006. Print. * This source provides a detailed account of the making of mukluks and their various traditional, ceremonial, and subsistence uses.
  • Vick, Ann. The Cama-i book : kayaks, dogsleds, bear hunting, bush pilots, smoked fish, mukluks, and other traditions of southwestern Alaska. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1983. Print.  * Another source that discusses the subsistence traditions and practices of Native Alaskans.
  • Williams, Maria Sháa Tláa, ed. The Alaska native reader: history, culture, politics. Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2009. Print.
  • http://www.inupiatgov.com/
  • http://www.nana.com/  *NANA Regional sponsored many Native activities in the 1970s, and were likely to have played a role in the Fourth of July festival featured in the film. This is a link to the NANA Corp. website.
  • http://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survivalquarterly/united-states/inupiat-ritual-and-identity * This link provides useful information with regard to the underlying traditions that pervade the continuing practice of Inupiat dancing. The information on this webpage refers specifically to the dances performed during the Messenger Feast (winter); however, the structure of the ceremonial dances performed at the Messenger Feast celebrations is adhered to in the dancing ceremony shown in Kotzebue 7. The dances in the film begin with the elders, and alternate between male and female dancers. In the next phase, two dancers occupy the performance space at the same time, calling and responding to one another with movements, gestures, chanting, and singing. A man off-screen (the same man from Kotzebue 5 & 6) announces "The Common Dance" towards the end of the ceremony, and everyone is invited to join in. This particular dance ends with a young couple dressed in ceremonial, white parkas, which stand in contrast with the darker colors of the decorated parkas worn by other dancers. The young woman is (presumably) one of the winners of the beauty contests that take place at the festival. (See "Kotzebue 5" for the children's beauty contest that corresponds with the women's beauty contest. The women's contest is not shown in these films.)
  • http://fna.community.uaf.edu/alaska-native-cultures/inupiaq/  * This source provides further information with regard to Inupiat dancing and ceremonies.
  • http://kotzpdweb.tripod.com/kotzhist6.html *This source contains pictures of the same Fourth of July festival shown in the film, only in 1959. (The film was presumably made in the early 1970s.) These pictures illustrate the continuity of the structure of the festival from 1958 to the early 1970s. The male dancers (at the bottom of the web page) are dressed almost identically to the dancers in "Kotzebue 7."The men in the photo may even be some of the same men, as the men in "Kotzebue 7" are older than the men in the picture from 1958. There is a picture of an Eskimo Beauty Contest near the top of this web page, which also illustrates the continuity between the 1950s festival and the 1970s festival. The pictures on this web page are complementary to the entire series of Kotzebue films.
  • http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1282&context=tsaconf&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Furl%3Fsa%3Dt%26rct%3Dj%26q%3Dinupiat%2520kayaks%26source%3Dweb%26cd%3D14%26ved%3D0CHAQFjADOAo
        *This is a link to an article based on a presentation by Fran Reed, member of the Textile Society of America. This presentation was given at a symposium in Honolulu in 2008. Reed discusses how parkas are made, the materials that are used, etc. This is a nice complement to some of the information that Blanche Rose provides as to how parkas, mukluks, and other textiles were made out of animal materials (from "Kotzebue 2 & 3").

--Emily Thomas, 2013