Late 19th Century Yup'ik Harpoon Rest

Value (2012) | $10,000 Retail$15,000 Retail

My grandparents were in Alaska during the gold rush. They went up there in 1898 and lived there for several years. My grandfather was a district attorney of Nome, and they collected some of these art objects, and this is one.

Do you know what this object is?

Well, a boot jack is what I thought it was.

A boot jack.


Well, what you actually have here is not a boot jack.

Okay, what is it?

It is a harpoon rest.


It's a Yup'ik harpoon rest, and it was lashed-- and we can see in the holes down here-- with hide. It would have been lashed to a large kayak. And the harpoon would have rested in there. And here we see at the top of this these images, which are most likely seals. And if we look very closely, the eyes and the nostrils are inlaid with a material called baleen. Baleen comes from inside the mouth of a whale. The Yup'ik people-- the Eskimo, as they used to be known-- embellished many of their objects with animals and animal spirits to help them in the hunt.


Believed they became one...

...with the animal.

...with the animal. So this would have been used as a good talisman to help them in their hunt as they were out in the ocean. These are not very common outside of museums anymore. I've had a couple in 20 years. This one is quite endearing. What we look for in these is these wonderful images of the seals, very humorous. I would estimate its value to be in a gallery about $8,000.

Well, that's very nice. I just assumed it was a boot jack because of the shape and everything. Grandma never ever said anything about it.

Well, I would very much hope that nobody uses it as a boot jack anymore.

Appraisal Details

Donald Ellis Gallery
Dundas, ON, Canada
Update (2012)
$10,000 Retail$15,000 Retail
Appraised value (1998)
$8,000 Retail
Los Angeles, CA (August 01, 1998)
Tribal Arts
October 31, 2011: 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.

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