Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Kayak (model)

qayaq “kayak”
Language: Qawiaraq Iñupiaq

I went out with my grandpa when I was a young man. Nice spring weather, not a breath of wind. He had a qayaq and we were pulling it over the ice to the edge of the water. The sea was like a mirror, but he took one look and said, “A storm is going to hit.” Before we got back to the beach, that storm came. Those old-timers—they look at the water or the sky, and it’s “Uh-uh, we’re not going anywhere today.”

—Jacob Ahwinona, 2001

This model of a Norton Sound kayak includes a full set of tools and weapons, all held on deck by sealskin cords. A seal dart rests on top of a float board, attached by a coiled line; the board was designed to drag behind a wounded seal, hindering its escape. A gaff hook and several throwing and thrusting harpoons are shown within reach of the boat’s cockpit, and a spare paddle is carried on the back. Wooden frames and seal-thong lashings gave kayaks great flexibility and strength to withstand rough water.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Norton Sound, Alaska
Object Category: Boats
Dimensions: Length 10cm
Accession Date: 1892
Source: J. H. Turner (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E153656