Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

 

Harpoon

unaaq “harpoon”
Language: Qawiaraq Iñupiaq

The hunter himself, he gave respect to the animal he hunted with a design… He put it on his hunting tools of any kind. Their belief is written right there.

—Jacob Ahwinona, 2001

This heavy harpoon for bearded seals and walrus has a toggling head designed to turn and hold fast beneath the animal’s skin. Behind the toggling head its slender foreshaft is a carved bone socketpiece bearing the image of a polar bear, invoking the spirit of one of the Arctic’s most sacred and respected animals. An ice pick is attached to the other end of the weapon.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Sledge Island, Alaska
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length: 173.0cm
Accession Date: 1880
Source: Edward W. Nelson (donor)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E045415