Aleutian hunters from Unalaska in kayaksF.K. Kittlitz, 1826-29.MAE
Aleutian hunters from Unalaska in kayaks
F.K. Kittlitz, 1826-29.

Men's Tools


For over four thousand years, men built flexible, custom-fit kayak frames from driftwood. Women covered the kayaks with sealskins sewn with waterproof stitches. Some seamstresses wore intestine parkas, which provided spiritual separation between life and death, animals and humans. The parkas also prevented evil spirits from entering the kayak, while the women sewed. Stylized wolf, killer whale and other helping spirits were drawn on the kayak and tools attached to the deck. Male and female face-like pendants tied to the inside of the kayak united the wife, husband and spirits into one powerful unified relationship. In the south, large groups of kayakers hunted sea otter, while lone kayakers hunted whales. Kayaks had one or two holes. Three holed kayaks were introduced by the Russians to carry another person, such as an extra hunter, passenger or fur trader. Kayakers wore intestine parkas tied to the kayak opening, protecting them from filling with water if the kayak flipped over.