Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge



situanun kuvraq “white whale net, beluga net”
Language: Qawiaraq Iñupiaq

And if you see an animal get caught, even if you’re way up on the land, if you look down that way your net is stretched… Then we know we got a whale.

—Theresa Nanouk, 2001

Beluga (white) whales have always been a prized and important source of food in northern Alaska. Hunters set out wide-meshed nets, traditionally made of bearded seal hide, to catch them in the fall as they swim near shore. The water is cloudy in that season, making the nets nearly invisible. The spirit of a beluga was customarily treated with great care and respect after its death, and iron tools were forbidden because they were thought to give it offense.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Norton Sound, Alaska
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length 48cm
Accession Date: 1936
Source: J. H. Turner (collector)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 193354.000