Hunter with harpoon and gun.Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska
Hunter with harpoon and gun.
Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska

Men's Tools

For the Yup'ik and Inupiat, there existed a powerful master spirit called Tunghak, who was both animal and human and lived in the moon. Tunghak was shown the utmost respect by decorating hunting tools, for, if displeased, it would bring starvation by withholding animals. Footwear and clothing were considered some of the most important hunting tools for men. Without beautifully constructed footwear designed to communicate with the animal spirits, animals were unwilling to relinquish their spirit to the hunter. Hunting tools engraved with images of mighty predators increased the effectiveness of these tools by communicating to those animals' spirits. Marine hunting weapons were decorated with killer whale images and land hunting weapons were decorated with wolf images in order to transform the hunters into powerful predators. Personal markings were also applied to tools. Dead animals were returned to the hunter that made the first strike, by identifying his markings on the harpoon head embedded in the animal. The tools were beautifully made to show respect to the animal spirits and they also protected hunters from the elements.