Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

Related Objects

Story knife

yaaruin “story knife”
Language: Central Yup'ik

We use this for drawing the house—[saying,] “make a bed in here,” “this side is my house,” “when I woke up, my mama was here, my dad was here,” “there’s a stove, and here’s my auntie, there’s my uncle.” We just use it to tell stories.

—Neva Rivers, 2002

Traditional story knives were made of carved, polished, and engraved walrus tusk. Some old story knives were ornamented with carvings of salmon, gulls, seals, and other animals, but others were simple and plain. A girl’s father or grandfather made her knife, and they were given as gifts during Elriq, the Great Feast of the Dead. After a girl experienced her first menstrual period, she gave away her story knife along with her dolls.

Culture: Yup’ik
Region: Southwest Alaska
Village: Kongiganak
Object Category: Toys, games
Dimensions: Length: 27.9cm
Accession Date: 1879
Source: Edward W. Nelson (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E036576