Art & Art History ETDs

Publication Date



Feminine indigenous tattoo traditions of the American Arctic have often been overlooked in scholarly literature due to colonial pre-conceptions regarding native gender roles and the nature of adornment. Modern Euro-American conceptions of skin and self often rely on rigid, essentialized categories, such as race and gender, to mark identity onto the individual body. However, the Inuit and Yupik peoples of Alaska and Canada regarded personal essence as fluid and transformative, a belief made visible in the networks of sewn lines that declared a womans status and agency. This text examines both written ethnological records and a diverse range of material artifacts, emphasizing visual analysis and critical theory, in order to uncover the trajectory of Arctic tattoo forms and meanings from past to present. By analyzing indigenous feminine tattoos from an art historical perspective, I will argue that this ancient technique was both vitally embedded in historic northern aesthetic and conceptual systems, and that it continues to provide a useful tool for the creation and transformation of contemporary American conceptions of identity.'



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Andrews, Justine

Second Committee Member

Fry, Aaron


native american, yupik, inuit, tattoos, arctic, tattoo