Performing for Wolf and Caribou

Adams Hollis Twitchell was lucky to have witnessed masked dance and song performed in Napaskiak over 100 years ago. In the spirit of reconciliation underlying this project of historic reunion, the Menil invited Chuna McIntyre to come to the museum, and on October 1, 2015, he with fellow Yup’ik singers and dancers Vernon Chimegalrea and Tatiana Andrew joined in the celebration of Wolf and Caribou’s reunion. All three hail from villages on the Kuskokwim River very close to Napaskiak, where the masks were created and collected (McIntyre is from Eek, just south; Chimegalrea is from Napakiak, directly across the river; Andrew’s family is from Kwethluk, a few miles upriver). In traditional Yup’ik attire, they performed a series of songs and dances, storytelling practices they have spent decades reconstructing and restoring.

Here is a song Chuna McIntyre learned from his grandmother, in which Wolf, Kegluneq, sings to Caribou, Tuntupiaq. In this chant, which you can watch him perform below, Wolf attempts to charm Caribou, admiring:

The caribou, who was there a moment ago,
Behind your ears, a bit of tallow (those tasty bits behind your ears).

Angaranga, ingiringi;
Tuntur augna, ciutiin kel’va, tunuralak.

The narrative is embedded in the song. For instance, when the wolf sings to the caribou. The wolf says, “Oh, those tasty bits behind your ears.” (laughter) The wolf is singing to the caribou, soothing it and praising it and making it feel comfortable and enticing it to come, and telling him, “And you have tasty bits behind your ears.” (laughter) That’s part of the narrative.
Chuna McIntyre
Song of the Wolf, performed by Chuna McIntyre and Tatiana Andrew at the Menil Collection, October 8, 2015
When you’re holding dance fans, it’s reaching out to the universe in beauty. You want to be presentable in front of the universe, in absolute beauty, as much as you can muster. Again, part of it is in supplication: you have to be beautiful.
Chuna McIntyre