Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Harpoon rest

nauligaqaġvik “harpoon rest or oar rest”
Language: North Slope Iñupiaq

Satkuvia aġviġum uvva (this is where whale is struck). That looks like its mark for the hunter, the life force.

—Ronald Brower Sr., 2002

Images of bowhead whales cover this ivory rest where a harpooner propped his weapons. Tails of diving whales are etched in front and whale heads are carved on the prongs. On the back of each whale is an “X” with a blue bead to mark its first vertebra – the center of its life force.

Some Iñupiaq whalers still use the skin-covered umiaq boat for whaling but bomb darts and shoulder guns long ago replaced stone-tipped harpoons and lances and harpoon rests are no longer used.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Northwest Alaska
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length 30cm
Accession Date: 1883
Source: Lt. P. H. Ray (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E089418