Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Boat steerman’s seat

iktuġaq “boat steerman’s seat”
Language: Bering Strait Iñupiaq

Also called:
aqutim iksivautaŋa “boat steerer’s umiaq seat”
Language: North Slope Iñupiaq

Uvvakii aġviqsiuqtinmakua umiaġiratiŋ piqpagipiaġataġuugait qutchiksuaġisuugait. Tavra tainna umialguruam marra suġauttaŋi. (And so it is, whalers really do have respect for their boats and have high regard. These are a boat captain’s items.)

—Kenneth Toovak, 2002

Wooden plaques with images of bowhead whales are still used by some Iñupiaq whaling captains. They are placed in the stern of the umiaq (skin-covered hunting boat) as a seat for the steersman or in the bow to make a small platform in front of the harpooner. The bowhead image is always on the bottom side and thus invisible. Point Hope harpooners tapped the plaques as they sang to summon whales from below.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length 43cm
Accession Date: 1958
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 226908.000