Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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uliigis “boots”
Language: Unangam Tunuu (Eastern Aleut dialect)

The chief of Aglagax took the woman home and had her sew boots of some very dry sea lion gullet [esophagus]. She sewed the dry gullet and finished a pair of boots. Her husband put them on and waded in a lake and his boots didn’t leak.

—Ivan Suvarov, 1910, from the traditional story “Luung”

Everyday boots had seal or sea lion soles and uppers made from seal or sea lion esophagus; caribou hide was also sometimes used, where available. Boots were sewn with whale or caribou sinew, which swelled when wet to make the seams completely watertight. This tall pair of boots, identified in museum records as “boots from an Aleutian chief,” is made of esophagus and ornamented along the seams with embroidery thread and around the cuffs with dyed-membrane appliqué and bands of fur seal. They are lined with red trade cloth.

Culture: Unangax (Aleut)
Region: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Object Category: Clothing
Dimensions: Length 63cm
Accession Date: 1876
Source: James G. Swan (donor)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E020921