Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Net float

puktaġun “net float”
Language: North Slope Iñupiaq

You have to set a seal net down in a lead, below the ice. Then you have to wait for the daylight to stop. You have something to make noise, and the seal’s swimming by in the open lead, and he hears the sound. And then he’ll come over and listen to what’s going on.... Then he’s tangled up in the net.

—Kenneth Toovak, 2002

A dark night in early winter is the time to net seals under the sea ice. The nets, which have weights along the bottom and a wooden float at one end, are strung beside an open-water lead or around an area where a seal has its breathing hole. Hunters make tapping or scratching noises to lure the animals into the net, which is invisible in the pitch-black sea. This wooden net float represents a woman, with female chin tattoos. Her eyes are old Venetian glass trade beads. The clicking of the float’s ivory rattles, carved with seal images, helped to attract the animals.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Northwest Alaska
Village: Point Hope
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length 13cm
Accession Date: 1936
Source: Museum Purchase
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 191315.000