Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Woman’s knife

uluuraqpak “woman’s big knife”
Language: North Slope Iñupiaq

Also called:
qavraunnaq “seal fat flenser”
Language: North Slope Iñupiaq

This can be used for many things. It can be used for flensing fat off seals. It can be used for skinning a variety of animals. It can be used for cutting a whale. It’s a multipurpose heavy tool with all-around practical uses.

—Ronald Brower Sr., 2002

The ulu or uluuraq (woman’s knife) is nearly universal among Arctic peoples. The addition of -pak to the name for this knife signifies its large size. Uluuraq blades are often semicircular but can be other shapes as well. They were originally made of ground slate or chipped stone, later replaced with steel. This knife has a steel blade, wooden handle, and ivory retainers. This knife would be used for flensing whale blubber or cutting up large mammals. The maker would have soaked the handle in water, inserted the blade, and then let the wood dry around it for a shrink-tight fit.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Arctic Slope, Alaska
Village: Point Hope
Object Category: Tools
Object Type: Awl
Dimensions: Length 25.5cm
Accession Date: 1916
Source: n.a. (seller)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 191319.000