• Native America

    Eskimo hunter’s mask

    Q: We went to a cool museum, the Maryhill Museum of Art (in Portland, OR), to kick off Ida’s birthday. Came across this guy and thought of you. Hans, 1778 A: And I thought of my viewers. This is an especially well made shaman’s mask from the Eskimos in or close to Alaska. Some of these comlplex wooden masks are still used, but most are sold to tourist. They are often signed by the carver and are a nice source of income for the otherwise poor Eskimos of the Pacific North West. A

  • Native America

    NWC Native American mask

    Q: I purchased it as-is. It was relatively cheap because of the extensive cracking damage from drying out. We added the string in the back for hanging on the wall, so that is not original to the piece. The hair plugs are quite coarse and long so I’m guessing horse tail, but I couldn’t say for sure. Sarah, 1762 A: This nicely designed and made mask was probably carved by a Native American in 2020 for use or sales. But something happened to it, so Sarah was able to get it cheap. Let’s try to find out who the carver is. He is obviously a skilled artist. The eyes are…

  • Native America

    Tsimshian spirit mask of the upper air

    Q: What I stumbled on while going down a Tumblr rabbit hole was that it is a Tsimshian mask representing the spirit of Upper Air. Supposedly from BC, Canada (19th C.). Hans, 1684 A: Christie’s auctioned this mask last year for over half a million dollars. Obviously it is a very desirable artifact. I did see a similar Tlingit singing shaman’s mask somewhere. The Tsimshian and Tlingit cultures are situated next to each other in Southeast Alaska. There is plenty about their folk art in libraries and the Internet. Enjoy. A+

  • Native America

    Iroquois false face mask

    Q: Hi again, hope you don’t mind to share your comment on this small 15 cm high mask that I bought at an auction last month in Amsterdam. Price was 250 euro. It was sold as a Iroquois false face mask from the fifties. I’m very pleased with this mask. Great carving and expression I think. Marc, 1640 A: I think this is an especially well made example. It’s a shame you don’t have more information. With Iroquois and most other Native American mask the question of authenticity can be very complicated. “The False Face Society is probably the best known of the medicinal societies among the Iroquois, especially for…

  • Native America

    Inuit mystery mask

    Q: This came out of a private collection in Illinois. It’s very lite weight measuring 8.5” X 4.5” not including the feathers. Polychrome cedar ceremonial shaman’s mask from the Inuit. I’m a collector. Would you know the age of this and what type of mask is it? It appears to have been used several times in a ceremony of sort. PJ, 1590 A: I do not recognize this at all. Since I am not an expert on any of the Arctic cultures, let’s hope that one of our viewers will make a helpful comment. PJ, since you and the seller both specialize in these kinds of artifacts, perhaps you could…

  • Native America

    Old Inuit mask from Greenland

    Q: Hello, Here are photos of our friend’s Inuit family mask. It was created in the early 1900’s, we are not sure exactly when. Our friend was Eskimo from Greenland and she left us all her family artifacts when she past away 10 years ago. The mask is wood from the center of a tree, you can see the circles. Diane, 1582 A: This is a major find for any first-rate art or anthropological museum. And it comes with family provenance. But please be careful. There are plenty of collectors and dealers who will try to cheat you out of a fair price if you don’t have a good idea…

  • Native America

    Iroquois false face mask

    The False Face Society is probably the best known of the medicinal societies among the Iroquois, especially for its dramatic wooden masks. The design of the masks is somewhat variable, but most share certain features. The eyes are deep-set and accented by metal. The noses are bent and crooked. The other facial features are variable. The masks are painted red and black. Most often they have pouches of tobacco tied onto the hair above their foreheads. Basswood is usually used for the masks although other types of wood are sometimes used. Horse tail hair is used for the hair, which can be black, reddish brown, brown, grey or white. The…

  • Native America

    Southwest Indian mask

    Q: Here’s one I stumbled upon at a thrift shop. It appears to be Pueblo-inspired. It also appears to be a recent creation, perhaps crafted for the tourist trade. Regardless, I think it’s special and wanted to share it with you. Any input you may have is welcomed. Eric, 1516 A: It certainly is special if you collect Native American masks. Though you knew it was a cheap replica, I don’t think you would mortgage your house for the authentic mask I posted at the end. Worse than the high price, you might also be sued by the Hopi people. The following appeared in the press six years ago. “Dozens…

  • Native America

    Eskimo small stone mask

    Q: I found this stone mask in Barrow, Alaska, on the beach and I was wondering if you could help me identify it. It is five inches high. Mechelle, 1501 A: A small stone face found of the beach in Barrow (in the far north) would likely have been made by the Inupiaq people. It is too small to be a real mask. It could have been made by a shaman and placed in a kayak for protection or good luck. Lots of small stone sculptures are made by the Inupiaq for different purposes, the most common being sale to tourists. More information is needed to determine value.