Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Snow beater

When your parka is frozen, you can just take it off and clean it with this. When you visit friends, you go up to the door and clean your shoes with it; they hear that and know someone is there and invite you in. We don’t have bells!

—Nicolai Ettyne, 2005

Snow beaters were traditionally used in northeast Siberia, St. Lawrence Island, and northwest Alaska to clean snow and ice off skin boots and parkas before entering a house. A heavier type was applied to the skin walls of old-style sleeping chambers, which became covered with breath-frost overnight. This Siberian Yupik beater is made of reindeer antler and engraved with marks to identify the owner. Chukchi adviser Nicolai Etteyne said, “We believe it protects from bad spirits. You hang it on the door, and it looks like he himself protects your home. If somebody comes, that person uses it and cleans himself of bad spirits.”

Culture: Eastern Siberian
Region: Northeast Siberia
Object Category: Tools
Object Type: Snow beater
Dimensions: Length 64cm
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E046005