Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

Related Objects

Sea otter arrow

rruq “arrow”
Language: Chugach Sugpiaq (Prince William Sound dialect)

When the first arrow hits the sea otter, they’ll dive. The arrow’s got a string attached on the arrowhead to slow the otter down, but it will dive again and again. The arrow goes crossways in the water. Everyone can see which way the arrow is going; and after the first hit, anybody can shoot it.

—Larry Matfay, 1983, from the Alutiiq Museum oral history archive

Men in kayaks hunted sea otters using arrows that were designed like miniature harpoons. The barbed point, made of bone or copper, came off the arrow shaft after striking its target but remained attached by a braided sinew bridle, forcing the otter to drag the shaft behind. Sea otter hunters traveled worked as a team. When one man spotted an otter, he raised his paddle to signal the other boats, which formed a circle around the swimming animal to shoot each time it came up. Experienced otters were said to bat the arrows aside with their paws.

Culture: Sugpiaq (Alutiiq)
Region: Prince William Sound, Alaska
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length 79cm
Accession Date: 1942
Source: Baltimore Museum of Art
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E382243