Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Ice scratcher

aiggatet “seal-calling stick”
Language: Central Yup'ik

Cikuq mana citugmirturcilluku nayit-llu tamana ullagyugngaciqngaku. (They keep scratching the snow, because the hair seal will come to it.)

—Neva Rivers, 2002

In late winter and early spring, hunters stalked seals as they slept or sunned themselves on the sea ice. If a seal sensed danger and raised its head, the hunter raked the ice with a scratching tool made of seal claws. This familiar sound – like another seal digging its breathing hole – reassured the nervous animal so that it drowsed off again. The device could also lure a swimming seal to within harpoon range. The blue bead on this scratcher recalls the pierced hands seen on masks and other objects, which represent passageways through which animals find their way to hunters.

Culture: Yup’ik
Region: Yukon River, Alaska
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length: 28cm (not including strap)
Accession Date: ca. 1879
Source: Edward W. Nelson (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E049174