Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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nauliġaq “seal harpoon”
Language: North Slope Iñupiaq

This is a sealing harpoon. Once you harpoon the seal, you can pull it up. This braided sinew line is pretty strong. And the harpoon point, that’s for catching seals. This end is for chopping the ice around the seal hole.

—Ronald Brower Sr., 2002

Ringed seals swim under the sea ice and come up for air at breathing holes. In the past, hunters with harpoons waited at the holes, standing silently on small stools until a feather placed in the hole on an ivory pin revealed the seal’s first breath. Then they struck down through the opening with a harpoon that had a long, thin foreshaft. The pick on the upper end of the weapon was for enlarging the hole so the dead seal could be pulled out.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Northwest Alaska
Village: Point Barrow
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length 107cm
Source: Lt. P. H. Ray (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E089910