Credit: Chris Arend
Unangan c. 1880. Sea lion gut, human hair, caribou hair, yarn Anchorage Museum Collection, 1986.031.001 Overall Dimensions (on mannequin): 142.2 x 71.1 x 48.3 cm (56 x 28 x 19 in.)
This Chugaayux (cape) is from the Aleutian Islands c. 1850, and it is made of sea lion gut, caribou hair, feathers and wool. Unangan, Alutiiq, Yup’ik, and Inupiaq women all used sea mammal gut to make a variety of products, including waterproof parkas and bags. Gut is light, flexible, and provides excellent protection from the cold water and frequent winds of coastal Alaska. This prestigious garment was likely inspired by Euro-American naval officer cloaks, which Unangan sewers would have seen worn by explorers in the Aleutian Islands. Gut parkas were made by Unangan women for thousands of years, though by the 1830s they adapted their vast knowledge to making decorated capes.