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The Inupiaq Eskimo Messenger Feast: Celebration, Demise, and Possibility

Susan W. Fair
The Journal of American Folklore
Vol. 113, No. 450, Holidays, Ritual, Festival, Celebration, and Public Display (Autumn, 2000), pp. 464-494
DOI: 10.2307/542043
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/542043
Page Count: 31
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The Inupiaq Eskimo Messenger Feast: Celebration, Demise, and Possibility
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Abstract

The Messenger Feast was an institutionalized festival event in historic times among both Inupiaq and Yup'ik Eskimos through which rival groups, as well as allies, maintained formalized means of sharing, trading, gaming, courting, and exchanging information. Similar activities took place during summer trade fairs. Contrary to popular notions, northern Eskimos were extremely competitive and often engaged in warfare. Messenger Feasts and other such institutions afforded relief from these social and intercultural tensions. This article examines the historic purposes of and the activities staged during Messenger Feasts and demonstrates why the festivals ceased in the Inupiaq north, primarily through the intervention of missionaries and educators. Today, the festival is being revitalized in some areas.

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