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The Steven Michaan Collection of North American Tribal Art : The Art of the Spirit World : Actic
Float Plugs, Avian Form
Carved Wood, 4"- 5½” Diameter, c.1850-1880
Inupiat Float Plugs, Avian Form
Inupiat Float Plugs, Avian Form

The seal hunt was an event of cardinal importance to the tribal groups on the Bering Sea, as the seal provided food, hides, and bone for implements and tools in a completely treeless environment.

Subsequently, much ingenuity and invention went into objects that made seal hunting a successful endeavor for hunters.

These floats exemplify that sense of invention and ingenuity.

A spring hunt would only begin on such an auspicious day chosen by the shaman and the hunters who had been making preparations for the event. After a successful capture, animals were stored in nets or large seal-skin floats. Float Plugs were inserted in the holes in the seal-skin floats where walruses' or seals' limbs and heads had been removed.

Later, after the hunt, the butchered animal would be distributed to the hunters, according to predetermined sharing protocols.

Typically, the hunter who rendered the first strike received half of the animal's intestines - used in making waterproof garments, the hide and the upper half of the body; the second hunter received the lower half of the body; and the third received tusks or the remaining intestines and stomach. The short-eared owl was a common representation found in float plugs.