Parka (USA), Before 1925
This is a Parka.
Feather-light and gossamer-thin, the gut parkas created by the Arctic sea hunters of Alaska and coastal Canada provided protection from wind, rain, and stormy seas. Wide skirted parkas could function as sleeping bags and the bottom edge could be tied securely around a kayak cockpit to prevent water penetration. Constructed from the intestines of sea mammals, including seals, walrus, and sea lions, they are cleaned, inflated, dried, and split into long ribbons of gut. This parka is made of beluga-whale gut, identifiable by the width of the strips. The intestine, which is composed of many layers of collagen and muscle, allows nutrients to be absorbed by the body, but is also impermeable and resistant to decay. Women skillfully sew these parkas with sinew (animal tendon) using watertight seams secured in place with a running stitch. Such parkas served spiritual purposes, too: native doctors wore one when practicing curing ceremonies and they were used in some ceremonies for purification.
It is credited
National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 22/7435.
Our curators have highlighted 2 objects that are related to this one.
Its dimensions are
L x W: 136 × 109 cm (53 9/16 × 42 15/16 in.)
Two different experts shed light on the gutskin parka-- how they were traditionally made, and how they are conserved today.
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.