Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Hunting hat

qayaatx^ux^ “Chief’s hat; decorated, closed top, long wooden hat”
Language: Unangam Tunuu (Eastern Aleut dialect)

What if this belongs to a whaling captain, because they used kayaks to hunt for whales? That’s why they represented the tail of a whale here.

—Mary Bourdukofsky, 2003

This hat belonging to a whaler or chief has a walrus ivory side piece topped with a spiral eye and carving of a bird. Eyes, “wings,” and other abstract mask-like features of hunting hats probably represent thunderbirds or killer whales, potent animals believed to be sources of spiritual power. The tail of a diving whale is painted on the hat’s bill and sea lion whiskers decorate the back. Large Russian trade beads decorate the bill and a string of small beads dangles from the crown. The red and black bands appear to have been painted with traditional mineral pigments.

Culture: Unangax (Aleut)
Region: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length (hat) 25cm, (whiskers) 57cm
Accession Date: 1925
Source: George Gustav Heye (seller)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 144870.000