L51.30.1-4 | Model harpoon

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Model harpoon
Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Arctic
Inuit: Nunavimiut
1900-1909, 20th century
Wood, ivory, metal, hide, sinew
1.3 x 30.5 cm
Gift of Mr. Hugh A. Peck
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Model (422)
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Keys to History

This model shows one of the most important tools employed by Inuit hunters before rifles became available. Harpoons were the favoured weapon for killing a variety of marine mammals, from seals and walrus to belugas and right whales.

Sometimes, a hunter waited by a seal's breathing hole to harpoon the animal or tried to spear one from the edge of the sea ice. A far more dangerous method was hunting from a qajaq (kayak) because the hunter had to stand up in order to spear the animal effectively. Groups of hunters worked together to catch a right whale, trying to paddle close while the giant animal slept on the surface. This was an especially dangerous job because the injured animal usually tried to flee and pull the hunters underwater.

The avataq, or float, was made of sealskin filled with air. It was connected to the harpoon with a long leather line. The avataq prevented the harpooned animal from sinking before the hunter could pull it to shore.

  • What

    This is a model of a harpoon and a skin float (avataq). The harpoon is made from wood and ivory, the avataq from hide and sinew.

  • Where

    This was the most popular weapon for hunting sea mammals throughout Nunavik.

  • When

    This particular harpoon was probably acquired from the Hudson's Bay Company post in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, in 1909, according to the journal of Mr. Hugh A. Peck. He noted that he acquired a number of "interesting articles" there.

  • Who

    Mr. Hugh A. Peck of Montreal acquired this item from Henry Martin Stewart Cotter, Post Manager at Kuujjuaq for the Hudson's Bay Company. The name of the artist who made the model is unknown.