Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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uunghaq “harpoon”
Language: St. Lawrence Island Yupik

In the 1940s I remember seeing Samuel Irigoo and Lincoln Bilasii, who would go hunting with coils of rope around their necks, and that harpoon that they’d carry along. That’s how they’d get the walrus.

—Leonard Apangalook Sr., 2009

In winter, hunters would trek miles on the sea ice in search of an active walrus breathing hole, spotting it from afar by spray sent up as the animal exhaled. They stalked from downwind, moving only when any sound they made would be covered by the walrus’s noisy breathing. They harpooned the walrus in its snout when it came up for air, dug in the pick end of the weapon, and braced as the animal dove and ran out a 60–150-foot-long line attached to the harpoon head. When the walrus surfaced again, they lanced it through the heart or shot it.

Culture: St. Lawrence Island Yupik
Region: St. Lawrence Island, Alaska
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length 214cm
Accession Date: 1924
Source: A. E. Thompson (collector)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 133745.000