Quliaqtuavut tuugaatigun (Our stories in ivory): reconnecting Arctic narratives with engraved drill bows

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This dissertation explores complex representations of spiritual, social and cultural ways of knowing embedded within engraved ivory drill bows from the Bering Strait. During the nineteenth century, multi-faceted ivory drill

This dissertation explores complex representations of spiritual, social and cultural ways of knowing embedded within engraved ivory drill bows from the Bering Strait. During the nineteenth century, multi-faceted ivory drill bows formed an ideal surface on which to recount life events and indigenous epistemologies reflective of distinct environmental and socio-cultural relationships. Carvers added motifs over time and the presence of multiple hands suggests a passing down of these objects as a form of familial history and cultural patrimony. Explorers, traders and field collectors to the Bering Strait eagerly acquired engraved drill bows as aesthetic manifestations of Arctic mores but recorded few details about the carvings resulting in a disconnect between the objects and their multi-layered stories. However, continued practices of ivory carving and storytelling within Bering Strait communities holds potential for engraved drill bows to animate oral histories and foster discourse between researchers and communities. Thus, this collaborative project integrates stylistic analyses and ethno-historical accounts on drill bows with knowledge shared by Alaska Native community members and is based on the understanding that oral narratives can bring life and meaning to objects within museum collections.