Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Hunting hat

qayaatx^ux^ “Chief’s hat; decorated, closed top, long wooden hat”
Language: Unangam Tunuu (Eastern Aleut dialect)

This one has two [spiral ivory side pieces]. Maybe this person was very, very talented, and important. / One of the good hunters.

—Mary Bourdukofsky / Vlass Shabolin, 2003

Elders suggested that this elegant bentwood hat, which is ornamented with sea lion whiskers and a pair of ivory sidepieces (volutes), must have belonged to a chief, shaman, or exceptional hunter. Its multicolored lines, dots, spirals, and “sand dollar” designs are delicately painted in faded mineral pigments. The volutes may depict birds’ heads or wings topped with spiral eyes. A small animal, possibly a sea otter, crowns the ivory seam plate that runs down the back of the hat. Such hats were both rare and valuable, especially before Russian contact, when they were equal in value to a kayak or several slaves.

Culture: Unangax (Aleut)
Region: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length 47.2cm
Accession Date: 1925
Source: Mrs. Thea Heye (donor)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 144871.000