Language: Unangam Tunuu (Eastern Aleut dialect)
My grandmother came over from Nikolski in one of those. She was in the middle there [the forward hatch]; she came over to marry my grandfather.
—Maria Turnpaugh, 2003
This model of a two-hole kayak shows the split, upturned bow and rudder-like flat stern of traditional Aleutian Islands boats. Men built the frames from pieces of driftwood, carving and bending the wood to make ribs, stringers, and keel pieces. They tied the parts together with sinew or baleen, placing bone or ivory plates in the joints to reduce friction and allow the frame to flex in heavy seas. Women sewed the cover from scraped seal or sea lion skins, making waterproof seams with a special stitch. A fresh coat of seal oil made the cover almost transparent.
Region: Unalaska Island, Alaska
Object Category: Boats
Dimensions: Length 55.3cm
Accession Date: 1887
Source: Lucien M. Turner (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E129214
Aron Crowell: When was the last time kayaks were used in Unalaska?
Maria Turnpaugh: People are still making and using them now.
Mary Bourdukofsky: They are becoming popular again.
Daria Dirks: Yes, but with canvas. Not with gut skin.
Maria Turnpaugh: No, they use some kind of airplane cloth.
Mary Bourdukofsky: They use it for drums now too.
Vlass Shabolin: There are a lot of youngsters that are riding kayaks now. Baidar [open skin boat; from Russian word bajarka].
Daria Dirks: No, no. Baidarka. How do you say this [in Aleut]?
Maria Turnpaugh: Ulux^tag^ [kayak].
Mary Bourdukofsky: But baidar is nig^alag^. We used them until –
Vlass Shabolin: The 1960s.
Mary Bourdukofsky: This one is ulux^tag^.
Aron Crowell: Were there Elders who knew how to make them and have taught other people?
Maria Turnpaugh: There is a diagram that old Sergei Savoroff from Nikolski had drawn.
Aron Crowell: Did he build the full size boats?
Maria Turnpaugh: No, but he drew the diagram.
[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).]