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Halibut Hook

National Museum of Natural History


A contemporary Tlingit-style wooden halibut hook carved by Leslie Isaacs (Native name: Tsaandaay), a Haida craftsman, in Craig, Prince of Wales Alaska in March 2013 and commissioned by Jonathan Malindine for educational purposes. It is an example of the kinds of hooks that were produced and used by both Tlingit and Haida peoples of Southeast Alaska. The name of the artifact in the local language is náxw (Lingít [Tlingit]), or ýagw táawaay (Xaad kil [Haida]). Such hooks were used by the people of the Northwest Coast to catch large halibut. Bait was tied at the intersection of the two wooden elements. Fished just off the ocean floor, a biting halibut will become hooked when the barb is embedded into its head. This hook has been carved from red cedar and yellow cedar and has a deer bone spike (Sitka black-tailed deer, Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis). Jonathan Malindine comments that hooks such as this one are now only rarely used for fishing. Their "function now is primarlly decorative, while production is an act of connection to cultural heritage." He notes that usually the upper element (i.e. non-barbed, wooden section) is carved with various motifs and figures. This object represents a standard, perhaps utilitarian, exammple of a traditional Northwest Coast halibut hook. The fish hook was sent to SI wrapped in a tan soft leather which is included in storage with the object, but may not have any cultural significance.

  • Type of Item fishhook
  • Culture Tlingit

  • Made in Craig
  • Collected in Craig