Hunters Classroom Projects

Make an Alaska Native Sea Hunter Hat (Chagudax) – A good project to do ahead of time, to then be worn on site.

Wooden Headgear of Alaska Sea Hunters: Symbols of Power and Identity

Excerpts from Glory Remembered by Lydia T. Black.

In historic times wooden headgear in Alaska was very diverse. There were three different types of wooden headgear: closed-crown hats, open-crown hats, and visors. They were made of bentwood with long or cone visors or hollowed-out wood. Aleuts used a maximum of four colors: red, black, ochre-yellow (or brown), turquoise or blue-green to decorate their hats. Kodiak Islanders used red, white, green, and black. Experts agree that the headgear had symbolic function. It was used exclusively in association with sea mammal hunting and that sea mammal hunting was surrounded by elaborate 

symbolism and ritual among all the peoples of the North Pacific Rim. This holds especially for the hunting of animals valued symbolically: whales, walrus and sea 

otters. Clothing and items of personal adornment, such as beads, so prominent in bentwood headgear decoration, performed a double function. They served not only as items of utility and decoration, but also as talismans, protection charms, and amulets. Kodiak Island headgear was worn by men, women and children during ritual festivities, ceremonies, social occasions, and by men while at sea, traveling, hunting, and in battle. They traded them at inter-tribal fairs.


Chagudax Hat


Wooden headgear was made to resemble the heads of the various animals and they were worn in the chase of the different animals which they represent. The use of short visors for hunting sea otters on Kodiak is well documented. They were decorated with a parallel band design. Bentwood closed-crown hats with long visors were rare and perhaps used as war helmets or whaler’s hats. Bird imagery on the hunting headgear may be symbolic of the Thunderbird theme. The Thunderbird is a giant eagle, dwelling on high mountains and volcanoes, and with the sun. This mythological being had power to kill both on land and sea; both animals and humans.  Painted, stylized, abstract bird figures, as well as realistic carved ivory bird images, are common. It is generally agreed that the volutes (side plates) of the hunting headgear, connote birds, bird’s heads, eyes, and beaks in a stylized abstract way. Symbols such as spirals, rosettes, and parallel band motifs appear as characteristic features of headgear design.  Click on each pattern to see the full size image to print.

Woman’s headdress (makes a doll sized headdress)

Chagudax Hat

Woman’s headdress (makes a doll sized headdress)  

Both hat patterns are meant to be printed life sized.  This can be done at a Kinkos or FedEx printing facility.

Hunters Soap Carving – Fun in-class activity or as an onsite alternative rainy day project.
Materials –

  • Bar of Soap (fragrance free)
  • Clay carving tools, inexpensive wooden and plastic tools
  • Pictures of Native Alaskan Whale Bone or Walrus Ivory Carvings
  • Pictures of Native Alaskan Wildlife: National Geographic is a great resource

Two books on soap carving –

  • Soap Carving by Suzuki. A book for beginners/children
  • Carving in Soap by Suzuki. For advanced carvers, step by step photos of the process of carving eight different animals

Hunters Fish PrintingFun in-class activity or as an onsite alternative rainy day project.

Photo and print by Christopher Dewees

Gyotaku, pronounced “Gee –Oh –Tah-Koo,” is the ancient Japanese folk art of painting fish. The first Gyotaku were created to preserve the true record and size of species caught by Japanese anglers as far back as 1862.

Materials –

  • Fish
  • Brush
  • Non-toxic non-permanent ink
  • Fabric, garment or paper to print on

Procedure – A gyotaku print is said to be created by “using templates from the hand of God.” Quite simply pigments are used to transfer images of natural objects. These relief prints or rubbings can be hand colored to produce a unique and beautiful art form. Nature printing is simply using pigments to transfer images of natural objects. (e.g. fish, shells, plants etc.) These are basically relief prints from nature.  Please use a non-toxic, non-permanent ink so that you can give your fish a bath and still eat him for dinner!

Photo and print by Christopher Dewees

For more info check out these links –

YouTube Fish Printing

Christopher Dewees Fish Prints

Hunters Dart Throwing Activity – To be made ahead of time, activity done at Fort Ross.
Materials – 

  • Hula Hoops (can be provided for use at the Fort)
  • Throwing board and dart (can be provided for use at the Fort)
  • Physical Education poles or PVC Pipe with foam on each end

Procedure – Officer (parent) rolls or throws the hula hoop into the air. The Hunter employees (students) throw poles (spears) through the hoop. Students learn how hard it is to hit a moving object.
This is a variation of a Miwok Indian game. One Miwok would roll a wooden hoop along the ground, while another would throw a wooden pole through it. 

– Game idea courtesy of Bill Singer at Santa Rosa Charter School. 

For detailed instructions: Aleut Dart Construction