Unknown maker, Tlingit
Beads, wood, thread
Collected by Louis Levy
Donated by Adolph Lewisohn in 1905
American Museum of Natural History 16.1/285

Upon first glance, this killer whale might appear to be a folksy rendition of an all American orca rather than a finely worked object made by a Tlingit woman. Compared to typical Tlingit beadwork, it is unusual both in technique and form, as beaders generally work on flat surfaces (like the bag in this exhibition). This figure was likely produced for the tourist market, and potential buyers at the time might have visually connected the red and white stripes in the tail to those in the American flag. The whale’s apparently patriotic theme could be related to the multiple forces exerting pressure on Natives to culturally assimilate, as well as the incentive to produce certain types of goods for tourists. However, many conventional Northwest Coast representations of killer whales include diagonal stripes or wavy bands along the sides of the tail, and it is possible that those present on the figure are simply an adaptation to this particular form. Thus the stripes might have served the aesthetic interest of both the Tlingit maker and the American tourist—simultaneously but for different reasons.

Click here for a discussion about this object (Marcia Crosby)

Tags for Interactive Tag Cloud: indigenization, non-canonical, souvenir