E0186: Inuit- Seal Call


Classification Category:
4:Tools & Equipment for Materials ➞ Fishing & Trapping T&E
Tag: Seal callers used by Eskimos. From Nome.."
botanical ➔ wood
animal ➔ claw
animal ➔ hide/skin ➔ leather
25 cm L
3.5 cm W
Provenance of Object:
This object was held in the museum that Luther College started in 1877. This museum eventually grew into the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, and following this, non-Norwegian American ethnographic objects were returned to Luther and accessioned into the college’s Anthropology Collection. Without additional documentation, was likely obtained by the Luther College Museum (later the Norwegian-American Museum) between the late 19th century and early 20th century.
"Seals are comforted by the sound of other seals on nearby ice. These ice scratchers allow hunters to mimic the sound of seals on ice by making a series of fast short scratches on the ice. The pattern and sound lulls alerted seals into a sense of security which allows the hunter to approach. The scratching sound may also attract seals from farther way. Given the effectiveness of the technique, it is still used today, though hunters use different and less specialized tools.

Seals are an important resource for coastland cultures in the far north. Nearly every part of the seal was used by the Inuit: the seal meat provided a valuable food source, the seal skins were used to make clothing, blankets, tents, and boats, seal blubber was a fuel, sinew made cords and ropes, and the bones and various internal organs were used for making hunting equipment and other tools." - from Emily England exhibit text, EXH 2014.01

"A hunter took out his ice scratcher, an implement made in the form of a seal's flipper with real seal claws, and imitated the sound of a seal scratching at his hole. Reassured, the seal continued its nap, allowing the hunter to approach within striking range with is harpoon." Kaplan, Susan and Fitzhugh, William. (1983). Inua: Spirit World of the Bering Sea Eskimo. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. p. 12.
Source Locality:
Nome, Alaska, USA
Seal call, or ice scratcher, used for calling seals to the surface by scratching on the ice, mimicking the sound of other seals claws. This seal call is made of wood and leather with three pegs at the end.
Related Collections
Accession: 1996.ETHN62, 1/1/96
Donated by: Unknown