Loss of Labrets and Rise of the Gospel

A Photo Essay about the Western Arctic Kukpugmiut, 1888–1924


  • Walter Vanast McGill University




Inuvialuit, body decoration, piercing, conversion, Indigenous Christianity, modernity


Labrets, for centuries a ubiquitous feature of male Kukpugmiut facial décor, are seldom mentioned in Western Arctic contact studies. Via early lithographs and photos, this essay reviews their three-tiered typology, visualizes social strata affecting their use, and defines when they were worn. As well, it describes the surgery required for labrets’ first insertion, their role as a credibility-enhancing display (CRED), conduct related to their high cost, and the vectors, including missions, that drove their disappearance.


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How to Cite

Vanast, W. (2021). Loss of Labrets and Rise of the Gospel: A Photo Essay about the Western Arctic Kukpugmiut, 1888–1924. Religious Studies and Theology, 40(1), 2–24. https://doi.org/10.1558/rst.19920