Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Net gauge

nigaqtutilaaġun “net measure, net gauge”
Language: North Slope Iñupiaq

This design is all seals. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight seals on the front. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten on the top. Nigaqtutilaaġun [net gauge]. So this is a gauge for making seal nets.

—Ronald Brower, Sr., 2002

During winter, seals can be caught with nets as they swim beneath the sea ice. The ivory gauge shown here was a tool for net making, used to measure the distance between knots so that the mesh would be just large enough for a seal’s head. Numerous seals are etched on the tool, indicating how productive this method of hunting can be; dozens of seals may be caught on a good night.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Northwest Alaska
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length 28cm
Accession Date: 1915
Source: Mrs. Thea Page (collector)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 045319.000