Seal Stomach Bag

Created by Ronald Lind and donated to Chugachmiut around 2015, this seal stomach bag features a seal fur handle and an ornamental wooden seal head stopper.

Seal stomach was a naturally waterproof and airtight material that many coastal Indigenous people used for storing food. In the Chugach region, seal stomach could be used to store fish eggs with oil, berries, and chocolate lillies. 

According to the Alutiiq Museum, it was used to store berries, greens, fish eggs, and seal oil. Seal stomachs were also used to render seal fat into oil to use for food, fuel, and to waterproof skins. The dark color of the seal stomach was also beneficial becasue it protected oil from sunlight and taste-altering effects.

Cultural Narrative: 

“Preserve food. Fish eggs or something they’d put oil with them. They had to add with oil with it so they would keep. … they used to save berries also, and the rice, the one you get in the ground… chocolate lilies. Of course they didn’t have jars so they used this container to put fermented eggs or agutaq… we still use agutaq. And fish eggs. ” – Pauline Demas, Nanwalek, 2022

“Seal stomach can be blown up like a balloon and dried, then was used as a buoy tied to a line to a harpoon so the seal would not escape or sink.” – Andy McLaughlin, Chenega, 2022

*Participants shared knowledge about this art piece at the Open Archive workshop on February 4th, 2022. They willingly shared their knowledge for the purpose of cultural documentation.