Saw this beautiful painting by Bill Holm* last week at Fort Ross. The Russians brought the hunters, most of them from the Kodiak Islands, to hunt sea otters at Fort Ross in the early 1800s. The kayaks were made of sea lion skins, the parkas (said to be waterproof) of sea lion intestines, the hats resembling birds.
“…The Kashaya Pomo called the Alaskans Underwater People because their boats sat so low in the water it seemed as if they were coming out of the sea. The iqyan (kayak) they developed is still studied today and its design is incorporated into modern shipbuilding. The Russians called these skin boats baidarkas.
The Alaskans were expert sea hunters. They honed their skill over thousands of years while living on isolated islands and waterways. RAC sent Alaska Natives along the coast to hunt for otter and fur seal pelts. They traveled great distances by kayak, including the Farallon Islands 35 miles southwest of Fort Ross across the rough open ocean, where the Alaskans stayed for months at a time. Alaska Natives used a spear with a detachable point tied with sinew to an air bladder made from a sea mammal’s stomach. After the animal is speared, hunters track the floating bladder, waiting for the animal to come up for air.…”