Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Kayak (model)

paitaalek “three-person kayak”
Language: Koniag Sugpiaq (Kodiak Island dialect)

I watched Alex Anahonak build a bidarki kayak for the last time…First, we put some [hot] rocks into a container of water and made the water boil so when he was ready to bend the frames, he just had to put them in the water. That made them bend easier. Then he put the ribs and frames together with sinew.

—Joe Tanape, from “Alexandrovsk: English Bay in its Traditional Way,” 1980

The Sugpiaq qayaq (or baidarka, in Russian) was made in one-, two-, and three-hatch designs. Single-hatch boats were for pursuit of fast game like porpoises, while double-hatch kayaks allowed the man in front to use a harpoon, dart, or gun while the stern paddler steadied the boat. Three-hatch kayaks, invented after Russian contact, were used for hunting but also to convey fur traders or village chiefs as passengers in the middle seat. Fore and aft paddlers in this model have spruce-root hats and the central figure wears a hunting helmet shaped like a seal’s head.

Culture: Sugpiaq (Alutiiq)
Region: Kodiak Island, Alaska
Object Category: Boats
Dimensions: Length 51cm
Accession Date: 1874
Source: W. H. Dall (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E016275