Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

Related Objects

Dart head

sax^siidax^ “harpoon head, spear head made of bone or ivory for sea otter spear”
Language: Unangam Tunuu (Eastern Aleut and Atkan dialects)

They know which plant is poisonous to put on the arrows, to get the whales.

—Daria Dirks, 2003

To spear fin and humpback whales, hunters in kayaks threw poison-coated darts with bone heads and points made of obsidian (volcanic glass). Whales died after several days as the slow-acting poison paralyzed their fins or tails, causing them to drown. The poison used was aconite, extracted by soaking and boiling the roots of the monkshood flower. Aconite-covered darts were also employed as deadly weapons for human warfare.

Culture: Unangax (Aleut)
Region: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Village: Unalaska
Object Category: Hunting
Dimensions: Length 33cm
Accession Date: 1960
Source: U.S. Fish Commission (donor)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E168519