American Indian Doll & Carvings, ca. 1910
Appraised Value: $4,800 - $5,800
IMAGE: 1 of 2
A viewer's recent email regarding an appraisal of an Inupiaq cribbage board prompted us to review past appraisals that mentioned Eskimo culture.
It is ANTIQUES ROADSHOW's intention to use culturally respectful terms when discussing the history of items being appraised on the show. We acknowledge that terms that describe a person or group’s identity regarding race, ethnicity, religion, etc., can change over time or have different meaning to different people. "Eskimo" is a word that has different connotations depending on where you live in the Northern Hemisphere.
In Canada and Greenland, "Eskimo" has negative connotations and is no longer an accepted term. "Inuit" is preferred, but that term is not commonly used in the United States. In the U.S., "Eskimo" is not considered to be derogatory and is in common usage. "Eskimo" is used when speaking of two main indigenous cultural groups collectively: "Yupik" (a culture group from Western Alaska) and "Inupiat" (a culture group from Northern Alaska and St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea). When one of these groups is being referenced, "Yupik" or "Inupiat" is favored over "Eskimo" by Alaskan Natives.
The term "Alaskan Natives" includes all indigenous peoples of Alaska: Eskimo, Unangan (Aleut), and American Indian, and is also considered broadly acceptable.
Appraisal Video: (3:40)
GUEST: My father and his sister, and I think an older brother as well, have pen pals with a family in Gambell, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, and they would send clothes and food to them and I think they didn't have very much, so as thanks they would send back ivory pieces they had carved and things they had made.
APPRAISER: And I understand this is just a small portion of the things that were traded back and forth after all that time?
APPRAISER: Do you know when the first letters started?
GUEST: It must have been maybe 1905, 1910.
APPRAISER: We have one of the letters here that you brought in. I think it's 1930 and it's very interesting. It talks about receiving "English" clothes and trading, or sending back, deerskin clothes.
APPRAISER: We have a picture here. This is one of the men that possibly wrote this letter.
GUEST: I think he's the one.
APPRAISER: There's a misconception that a lot of Native Americans were taken advantage of. And I'm not saying that never happened, but this is an excellent example of how there was this relationship back and forth for a very long time. And, essentially, a trading people in Alaska were getting things that they needed and out of kindness and respect they were sending things back. But that's not the only reason. I'm fascinated with one of the objects in particular that you brought in, and that's this doll. Do you have any idea what this doll's made out of?
GUEST: It's leather, I think.
APPRAISER: Well, the face is ivory, like some of these things here, almost certainly walrus tusk. The parka this doll is wearing is that I find very interesting. The material here is the dried intestine of a seal-- or a walrus, but likely a seal.
GUEST: Is that right?
APPRAISER: Cut into strips, dried and then sewn into this parka. These little orange bits with the feathers, those are the beaks of an auklet bird, a water bird.
APPRAISER: With the feathers attached. When we see in the full-size versions these without the decoration, they acted as raincoats for hunters when they were out in the sea, whale hunting, and they were waterproof. But when we see them decorated like this, which is very rare, they were worn ceremoniously at festive dances and also worn by shamans to connect with the spirit world. And the full-size versions of this type is extremely rare. I've seen two. One is now on view at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and oddly enough, the other example is also on view in New York, at the Museum of the American Indian right now, in a private-collection viewing. Extremely rare when it comes to the full size and I have never seen a doll's version.
GUEST: Oh, really?
APPRAISER: Value... Not so much in these little ivory carvings made for sale. The tusk here, which is made almost in the form of a cribbage board but has a dogsled team on it, you're looking at probably $600. These, under $100 apiece. However, the full-size version of a coat like this sells in the neighborhood of $30,000 to $40,000. The doll's going to be quite a bit less than that-- in the neighborhood of $4,000 to $5,000.
GUEST: Really? Oh, my.
APPRAISER: About $4,800 to $5,800 for the group.
GUEST: That's wonderful. But... But I'm not going to sell it.
APPRAISER: Good for you. Now, one of the things, too, is there are still laws that control the movement of walrus ivory.
GUEST: No kidding?
APPRAISER: Yes, so you need to be a little careful about that. It is legal.
GUEST: I thought it was.
APPRAISER: But you need special permits to move it around. Thank you very much for bringing it in.
GUEST: You're welcome.
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