Language: Unangam Tunuu (Eastern Aleut dialect)
Woven grass mats helped to make long hours of sitting in a kayak more comfortable. On shore, travelers used mats and their overturned boats to construct temporary shelters.
Region: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Object Category: Homes
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E168522
Aron Crowell: These mats, you mentioned a couple of uses—sleeping mats, house dividers—any other?(1)
Mary Bourdukofsky: Burial. [She later identified this as a kayak mat or a floor mat.]
Vlass Shabolin: Burial.
Maria Turnpaugh: But I think those burial mats were the ornate ones.(2)
Daria Dirks: This could be a room divider.
Mary Bourdukofsky: Kind of small for a room divider.
[From discussion with Mary N. Bourdukofsky, Vlass Shabolin, Maria Turnpaugh and Daria Dirks (Tanadgusix Foundation) at the National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian, 4/07/2003-4/11/2003. Also participating: Aron Crowell and Bill Fitzhugh (NMNH) and Suzi Jones (AMHA).]
1. This was identified as a boat mat in the museum record, which also notes that it was found “in boat no. 76280 no. 168523 Leiden Museum May/99.”
2. For a discussion of mats used for burial, see E365225.
Open-weave grass mats were used as seating pads inside kayaks, with an old seal skin placed underneath for greater comfort.(1) I. G. Voznesenskii, who visited Unalaska in 1843, recorded that the name for these mats was “ixsxagi-x.”(2)
When on a long voyage or visiting another village, travelers constructed overnight shelters using their overturned kayaks, paddles, piled grass, and the grass mats they carried inside the boats.(3)
1. Bergsland and Dirks 1990:261; Black 2003:162; Liapunova 1996:180; Veniaminov 1984:273
2. Liapunova 1996:94
3. Beaglehole 1967:450; Bergsland and Dirks 1990:365; Coxe 1966:172