The quiver and arrow. Courtesy of the Alutiiq Museum
The Alutiiq Museum recently acquired a quiver that is a rare example of Alutiiq craftsmanship and also leads to a host of questions about its origins.
Sven Haakanson is Curator of Native American Anthropology at the Burke Museum and recently passed the quiver – and the arrow that comes with it – along to the Alutiiq Museum. Haakanson is originally from Old Harbor and served as the Alutiiq Museum executive director before moving to Seattle to work at the Burke Museum and teach at the University of Washington.
Haakanson says the King family from Kodiak brought the quiver and arrow to the Burke Museum, and he recognized the quiver as a rare find.
“Most of the quiver’s I’ve seen are circular. This one was square, beautifully made and tied and you guys check it out here in Kodiak. But it should go home ‘cause it’s so rare, and it would be a nice addition to the kayak they’re getting from the Peabody museum, the warrior’s kayak, ‘cause those quivers were used when they were kayaking. They were originally made to hold sea otter darts, so that the sea otter darts – so they don’t get damaged on the kayak. You’d be able to pull them out, shoot the sea otter, and keep going.”
Haakanson says the arrow and quiver likely have Alutiiq origins based on the design of the arrow’s eagle feather fletching, and he says there are a lot of questions surrounding the artifacts.
“Not only why was it square, was it a certain family that made it, was it a certain part of the island that made it? I mean, those are all these other questions that come up now that we have it. And so it’s like, okay, then, how many other square quivers, and is there some correlation between the Tlingit and the Alutiiq, or the Sugpiaq. Is that part of that connection and trade?”
He says the arrow would have been used for target practice. Marnie Leist, the Alutiiq Museum Curator of Collections and Facilities Officer, dates the objects back to the 19th-century and says the arrow resembles many that she’s studied in the Karluk One collection.
“You can see the continuity and ingenuity of Alutiiq manufacturing because the arrows is pretty much exactly like the arrows from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. With, of course, a slight modification with the tip. A cartridge shell casing, the cylindrical part, is on the end, and then someone screwed in a screw and it’s blunted.”
Leist says this style of arrow could be used in hunting to stun a bird, for example, and keep the pelt intact for making garments.
According to an Alutiiq Museum representative, staff may put the quiver and arrow on display this summer, possibly in June.