Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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qaltak “bucket”
Language: St. Lawrence Island Yupik

Every time when they get a whale, we used to have a little pail with a little scoop in there, a wooden water pail. . . They always used it when they had ceremonies, for giving gratitude.

—Estelle Oozevaseuk, 2001

Buckets with bentwood sides were used to store food, carry water, and bail out hunting boats. When a whale was caught, the boat captain’s wife carried a wooden bucket filled with water, whale blubber, and roseroot down to the ice edge. In the whale greeting ceremony, she raised and lowered the bucket while her husband and the striker (harpooner) did the same with their paddles. The men rocked the boat and gave the whale-catch cry. They shared the food and drink that the captain’s wife had brought, and then the striker threw his harpoon into the snow between her feet.

Culture: St. Lawrence Island Yupik
Region: St. Lawrence Island, Alaska
Object Category: Homes
Dimensions: Length 27.5cm
Accession Date: 1882
Source: Edward W. Nelson (donor)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E063237