Week 11: Aleutian kayak

What is this kind of boat called?

Who made this? Where did they live?

What environmental factors shaped the crafting of this item?

Aleutian kayak

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Answers:

What is this kind of boat called?

This very special artifact is a model of a kayak made of sealskin, driftwood, and feathers. It was donated to the Karshner Museum in 1938. This kind of kayak has a design particular to the Aleutian Islands, which stretch westward from Alaska, so it is known as an Aleutian kayak. To see a distinguishing feature of the Aleutian kayak, look at its very front tip: it has a forked bow. This feature comes from the particular way people made them. A related boat is the umiak, which is like the kayak but has an open deck.

Who made this? Where did they live?

Kayaks of various kinds have been made for thousands of years by the Inuit and other native arctic peoples. They live in the northernmost parts of Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Traditionally, the skins that cover the kayak were sewn by the women, and then draped over a frame made by the men. The men then used the kayak for hunting.

What environmental factors shaped the crafting of this item?

Since much of the Arctic terrain is seasonally covered in ice and snow, survival in the frozen northern climate meant finding a reliable source of food in the sea. Hunting seals and other sea mammals provided the peoples of the Arctic with food as well as materials for clothing, tools, and many other practical concerns. That made the design of the vehicle used for hunting very important, which is why the kayak was not only lightweight, but also extremely maneuverable on the water. Clever design made it an essential tool for survival in an often harsh environment.