Chapter 5. Native artifacts

Eskimo whirling whistle

This small replica painted turquoise and tied to a yellow string. Other people know it as a bullroarer or turndun. Twirled fast overhead it winds and unwinds to call out near and far.

Aleut mask

This ceremonial mask is typical for Alaskan native cultures It’s a work of art, and it’s symbolic. Its arcs and rays show that mankind and otter, puffin, and whale are bound together.

Soapstone carving

Kneeling hunter in soapstone and fur parka raises his ivory spear and models patience. Luke the carver etched is name on the bottom. It took years for his lesson to take.


With a beak like a kingfisher and wings upstretched this wooden bird carved in Victoria by Art Charlie is lighter than air.

Walrus tusk

Illegal to possess even in Alaska except by natives I first saw this uncarved tusk on my uncle Coogans’s coffee table in Kodiak. It was a lesson to me, as Coogan pointed out, a matter of identity.


An object of art, not of any use, my mother made of spruce and maidenhair fern reminds me on its shelf how much she loved us.


We know who made this; she wasn’t a native, but sympathetically wove these sticks and yarn as an apotropaic charm.