Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

Related Media
Related Objects


yú’aa “adze”
Language: Lingít

In those times stone axes were valuable and, when one was broken, people beat a drum as though somebody had died.

—From the story “The Alsek River People,” told by Dekinā´k! in “Tlingit Myths and Texts,” 1909

People used to fear that their stone adze blades – which took great time and effort to shape out of jade or greenstone – would break as they chopped wood in the forest. They fasted and used spiritual precautions to guard against such accidents. Starting in the late 18th century, Russian, British, and Spanish sea otter ships traded iron “toes” or bars to the Tlingit, who used them to make unbreakable adzes. This tool has an iron blade that clan leader George Bennett thought could have come from a trader’s ship. Wooden wedges were driven under the lashings to tighten them.

Culture: Tlingit
Region: Southeast Alaska
Object Category: Tools
Dimensions: Length 54.5cm
Accession Date: 1948
Source: Mrs. Henry D. Barrow (seller)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 211613.000