Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Kayak (model)

ulux^tax^ “kayak, baidarka”
Language: Unangam Tunuu (Eastern Aleut dialect)

My grandmother came over from Nikolski in one of those. She was in the middle there [the forward hatch]; she came over to marry my grandfather.

—Maria Turnpaugh, 2003

This model of a two-hole kayak shows the split, upturned bow and rudder-like flat stern of traditional Aleutian Islands boats. Men built the frames from pieces of driftwood, carving and bending the wood to make ribs, stringers, and keel pieces. They tied the parts together with sinew or baleen, placing bone or ivory plates in the joints to reduce friction and allow the frame to flex in heavy seas. Women sewed the cover from scraped seal or sea lion skins, making waterproof seams with a special stitch. A fresh coat of seal oil made the cover almost transparent.

Culture: Unangax (Aleut)
Region: Unalaska Island, Alaska
Object Category: Boats
Dimensions: Length 55.3cm
Accession Date: 1887
Source: Lucien M. Turner (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E129214