Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Kayak model

ulux^tax^ “kayak, baidarka”
Language: Unangam Tunuu (Eastern Aleut dialect)

If perfect symmetry, smoothness, and proportion constitute beauty, they are beautiful; to me they appeared so beyond anything that I ever beheld. I have seen some of them as transparent as oiled paper, through which you could trace every formation of the inside.

—Martin Sauer, from “Account of the Geographical and Astronomical Expedition…in the Years 1785-1794”

Aleutian Island kayaks – built for survival on stormy, tide-ripped seas – have been praised for their sophisticated design, speed, beauty, and skill of construction. Traditional boats varied in length from thirteen to twenty-one feet, depending on whether they were made for one, two, or three paddlers. The finest old kayaks were so narrow and sharp-keeled for speed that they would not float upright without a rider. The Russian name baidarka is commonly used for these boats in the islands today. The split, upturned bow is said to represent a sea otter lying on its back with its paws upraised.

Culture: Unangax (Aleut)
Region: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Village: Unalaska
Object Category: Boats
Dimensions: Length 34cm
Accession Date: 1916
Source: W. G. Ross Collection (associated collection)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 052909.000