Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Grass mat

chiqiliitix^ “mat for house”
Language: Unangam Tunuu (Attuan dialect)

Also called:
ixsx^ag^ix “grass mat”
Language: Unangam Tunuu (Atkan dialect)

Some used them as room dividers, also as burial mats…If somebody died they say they wrapped them up like a mummy, but they took all the insides out and studied them to figure out the cause of the death. Before they buried them they stuffed them with grass and moss and then wrapped them all up. Before they had cloth they used grass mats.

—Maria Turnpaugh, 2003

The weaving of mats from wild rye grass was one of a woman’s constant tasks. Ivan Korovin wrote of the Unalaska people during 1763-65 that “they sleep upon thick mats, which they twist out of a kind of soft grass that grows upon the shore.” Finely woven mats made of split grass were used as kayak seats, sleeping blankets, and floor coverings. They were hung up as screens to mark off individual family areas inside the large communal houses. Mourners wrapped the dead in embroidered mats before placing them in the ground, tomb, or cave.

Culture: Unangax (Aleut)
Region: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Village: Attu
Object Category: Homes
Dimensions: Length 137cm
Accession Date: 1901
Source: Comm. J. M. Moore (donor)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E365225