Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

Related Media
Related Objects

Woman’s knife

igax^ “ulu, woman’s knife”
Language: Unangam Tunuu (Eastern Aleut, Atkan and Attuan dialects)

Also called:
nuusix^ “knife”
Language: Unangam Tunuu (Eastern Aleut dialect)

Oh, I use it all the time. I just love it; it’s nice and big.

—Maria Turnpaugh, 2003

The curved knife with wooden handle is one of a woman’s basic tools. Women used them “very skillfully as a knife or scissors” according to 19th century Russian priest Ivan Veniaminov, and they were employed to cut meat and skins. Carl Merck noted in 1790 that, “There is a broad knife made of iron. They use it to eat with. They bite into whale blubber, for instance, and with the knife they cut off a good size piece in front of the mouth.” He also saw women using their knives to split seagull bones into slivers for making sewing needles.

Culture: Unangax (Aleut)
Region: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Object Category: Tools
Dimensions: Length 14cm
Accession Date: 1917
Source: D. F. Tozier Collection (donor)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 069166.000