This story is dedicated to the people of the Yup’ik village of Napaskiak, Alaska, and to all their ancestors. I am humbly grateful to them for providing the inspiration for this project and e‑publication. In a subsequent incarnation in print, they will each be named one by one. For the moment, however, I should like to express my gratitude to Yup’ik elder Chuna McIntyre, of Eek, for his guidance, wisdom and friendship, as well as to Vernon Chimegalrea, of Napakiak, and Tatiana Andrew, from Kwethluk, for their profound generosity in sharing their culture, poetry, and knowledge of Kuskokwim traditions. Quyana cakneq.

I am deeply indebted to Adelaide de Menil and Edmund Carpenter for entrusting me with the task of continuing this intriguing research, sparked by their own appreciation and respect for Yup’ik masks; I can only hope to do some small justice to advance Dr. Carpenter’s own significant body of work on the subject. To Adelaide for your generous trust and to Ted for your access and brilliance, I thank you both profoundly.

I wish to acknowledge also the following for their essential contributions, of information, research materials, and support and guidance. Jeffrey Myers, whose incredible detective instincts and visual memory got the whole ball rolling: there would be no story to tell without you. Ann Fienup-Riordan, the anthropologist who has dedicated herself more than anyone to documenting the stories of Yup’ik culture and history, your correspondence encouraged me throughout this journey. And Margie Brown, granddaughter of A.H. Twitchell, who was a key player in this historic narrative, I am very pleased to have had your ear and voice, providing numerous facts and pointing out pathways as yet to be fully explored.

Significant contributions were made by generous individuals at other institutions. I am humbled by the sheer volume of information provided by William Wierzbowski at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. I am also delighted by the continuing generosity of staff members at the National Museum of the American Indian, especially Rachel Menyuk and Kara Hurst, who patiently respond to my incessant inquiries and have provided key documents and information. Thanks also are due to Wendy Teeter and Isabella Kelly-Ramirez at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, who are adding to the complexity of this continuing saga of Yup’ik masks gone astray, and helping me find more answers to new questions.

At the Menil Collection, I am obliged to more of my colleagues than it would be possible to list here. I thank them all equally and heartily for the support and enthusiasm they have shared with me over this project. I’m especially grateful to Josef Helfenstein, who embraced the Carpenter Collection from the beginning and has been the kindest and most supportive museum director I have ever had the privilege to know. Paul R. Davis is a most cherished curatorial colleague and ally whom I am honored to befriend and learn from. And there is a special place in the heavens for publishers Joseph N. Newland (source of the Barry Lopez reference), Sarah E. Robinson, and Rebecca Ahrens, for providing insights, talent, indulgence, sympathy, and the occasional coffee to this well-intentioned but not always diligent writer. You, and all the unnamed others at the Menil, more than just professionals, you are decent human beings of whom I am equally fond and awed by.

We owe this e‑publication’s elegant design and programming to our able collaborators at Linked by Air, Tamara Maletic, Dan Michaelson, Dylan Fisher, and Christopher Roeleveld.

Finally, I must thank the various friends and family members who have listened to me incessantly rattle on about my daily excitements as this story has unfolded, and continues to flower. You know who your loved ones are when you can tell the same story over and over, and still be met by a smile each time.

And, of course, I mustn’t neglect our dear Wolf, and dear Caribou, the heroes of this romance, in offering my endless thanks for all your benevolence. May you never leave each other’s sides again.

Sean Mooney
Curator of the Edmund Carpenter Collection of Arctic Art

Compilation © 2015 The Menil Foundation, Inc. Launched December 2015

One update, February 2016, correction of dates Twitchell resided in Napaskiak

Image Credits

Introduction, video by Brilliant Films; Witnesses photo by Paul Hester; Wolf and Caribou mask photos by George Hixson
A.H. Twitchell, mask photo by National Museum of American Indian Photo Service staff
Surrealist Collectors, Album/Art Resource, NY
A Restoration Project, upper left: National Museum of American Indian Photo Service staff; upper right: Musée du Quai Branly/Scala/Art Resource, NY, photo by Hughes Dubois; lower left: National Museum of American Indian Photo Service staff; lower right: photo by Paul Hester
Reunion, above: photo by George Hixson; below: photo by Sean Mooney
Performing for Wolf and Caribou, video by Brilliant Films