Names Unrecorded c. 1878 Iñupiat
gouache on paper, 11 x 7 inches

William H. Dall describes a young woman, “quite fine-looking, and of remarkably good physique and mental capacity” in his observations of Eskimo [sic] living in the Norton Sound region of Northwest Alaska in the late nineteenth century. He does not record her name, nor the name of her partner.

He states:

“… she said that she was as strong as any of the young men; no one of them had ever been able to conquer her in wrestling or other athletic exercises, though it had more than once been tried, sometimes by surprise and with odds against her. She could shoot and hunt deer as well as any of them, and make and set snares and nets. She had her own gun, bought from the proceeds of her trapping. She did not desire to do the work of a wife, she preferred the work which custom among the Eskimo allots to men. She despised marriage; held she had the right to bestow favors where, when and to whom she pleased, as fancy prompted, or not at all.”

She found a partner “in a smaller and less athletic damsel” and the two of them made a home together. They attempted to live, trade and go about their lives despite the strong disapproval from their community. Under constant harassment, particularly from the young men, they were always alert and able to thwart any attempts to upend their home-life.

When deer hunting season came they set off for the mountains. Upon their return they found that their home had been reduced to ruin.


Dall, William H. “Social Life Among Our Aborigines.” The American Naturalist 12, no. 1 (Jan., 1878):1-10.

Roscoe, Will. Changing Ones: Third and Fourth Genders in Native North America. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.


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