The Angyaaq sets sail once again

July 10, 2017 | Cathy Morris

It’s been over a century since members of the Sugpiat community on Southern Alaska’s Kodiak Island have used a traditional Angyaaq. These boats were once an essential part of their livelihood and culture for thousands of years before being destroyed by Russian settlers in the 1860s.

The knowledge of these boats was thought to be lost.

But all of that changed when Sven Haakanson, Curator of North American Anthropology and a member of the Sugpiat community, turned to a model Angyaat from the Burke and other museum collections to revitalize this traditional boat-building practice and build two Angyaaq—one here at the Burke Museum in Seattle and one in Kodiak Island, Alaska.

“The idea was to take that traditional knowledge that’s embodied in the original model and bring it back home, back to my tribe and back to the community so that we can then use it again and celebrate it,” Sven said.

Posted: July 10, 2017
Video Caption: The Sugpiat community’s traditional Angyaaq boat is reconstructed and leaves shore for the first time in over a century.

Beginning in 2014, Sven reverse-engineered the model Angyaat in the Burke collection before building a full-size versionwith the help of University of Washington students and Burke Museum staff and volunteers. He simultaneously shared this experience and knowledge gained with community members on Kodiak Island where another Angyaaq was being built.

During the Burke’s Maker: Market in December 2015, Sven and his students covered the previously built frame in airplane fabric, waterproofed it, and stitched it together. By the end of 2015, Sven’s team had completed one full-size Angyaaq at the Burke Museum, and a frame of the boat completed on Kodiak Island. 

The idea was to take that traditional knowledge that’s embodied in the original model and bring it back home, back to my tribe and back to the community so that we can then use it again and celebrate it.
Sven Haakanson (Sugpiat)

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