The Inuit adapted many tools for catching food in their barren environment. With no trees and little vegetation, driftwood spears such as this one are adapted to be highly efficient wiki:world_gallery:layered_info:publish:encounters:americas:arctic:arctic_hunting|hunting tools. Extending from the tip of the spear are three prongs. The central prong is a straight iron spike, obtained in trade with a European or American ship as neither iron nor the means to forge it are commonly encountered in the Arctic. Either side of the iron spike are two bone prongs with curved metal barbs at the tip, facing inwards towards the spike.
This type of spear or harpoon can be found across the Arctic, and this specific 19th century example comes from northern Alaska. Many of the rivers in the Alaskan Arctic are summer spawning grounds for various species of salmon, who swim up the shallow rivers to ponds and lake far inland, where they breed. Although they appear in large numbers, catching the salmon is harder than it first appears, as they are slippery and fast and the water very cold. Inuit hunters instead use these spear to pin the salmon to the river bed with the spike, while the barbs prevent the fish from swimming away from the strike. Trapped by the thrust, the salmon will bleed and weaken until the hunter can pull it ashore with minimal splashing, keeping the hunter dry and warm.
The collector is Edward Lovett.