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Bequest of Thomas G. Fowler
Kayak deck cleat carved in the form of a male sea otter. Rendered in ivory, the otter is shown “swimming on its back”. A decorative dot pattern on the sea otter's belly is achieved with the use of inset sea lion whiskers cut flush with the surface. This cleat was one of a pair that was fastened to lines securing the hunter's weapons to the deck of the kayak or bidarka. Sea otters had a central place in Aleut mythology. They were believed to have originated when the benevolent Deity, to alleviate parental grief, transformed an incestuous brother-sister pair who had thrown themselves (or were thrown) into the sea, into sea otters.