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Northwest coast Native masks

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Native American Antiques1640 of 1896birch bark canoe models, old and newminiature ivory kayaks
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    Posted 11 years ago

    (39 items)

    A bear, owl and two 'portrait' masks, about 14" tall, dating to 1850-1875, appearing to have been ceremonially used. Carved of western red cedar, the backs are hollowed out, allowing them to be worn over the face, held on by tie straps. Holes along top edge would have held bunches of hair or shredded bark. Masks are hollowed out to a fairly uniform thickness - maybe 5/8".

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    1. Benking, 11 years ago
      Wow, wow, wow, wow, great!!!

      You know any names?
    2. bushrat bushrat, 11 years ago
      They are all old, none of them are signed, and, no, I don't have much other info on them, except for the bear mask, of which I know a bit about the family who is said to have collected it way back when.
    3. Benking, 11 years ago
      Do tell.
    4. bushrat bushrat, 11 years ago
      reputedly bought by a young Englishman while travelling in North America during the latter 1800's. Taken home, but then brought back to Canada when the family immigrated here in the 1900's. Sold in an estate auction, Ottawa, 1990's, along with several other Northwest coast Native items, one of which was a very similar mask with articulated lower jaw. Probably Haida, in origin.
    5. Benking, 11 years ago
      Yes, that seems and is evidently so!

      They are all wonderful!

      More research needed?

      You must get specialists?
    6. bushrat bushrat, 11 years ago
      Thanks pick and emerson for the kind support.
    7. walksoftly walksoftly, 11 years ago
      I mean no disrespect, only providing a little insight.
      I do love these items, but so do the cultures that made them, the people of the Pacific Coast were prolific artists & very creative people. Susan Rowley a curator at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, estimates that millions of artifacts were removed from the First Nations People in BC alone. A website has been set up that allows the First Nations people & Museums around the world to come together & learn about these items in there collections.
      A link to that site:
    8. bushrat bushrat, 11 years ago
      Thanks, walksoftly. I understand and appreciate your remarks. I believe that the comments by Ms. Rowley (and others), are mostly directed at those who robbed graves and/or otherwise stole artifacts from various native groups. And at those who knowingly harbor stolen treasures in their collections. Many such items wound up in leading Museums of the world. However, native artisans also did trade and sell their wares openly and legitimately, and did so over many hundreds of years. I came by these legitimately, through open auction sales; none of them has ever been questioned as being in my possession wrongly or improperly. That includes having shown them to native carvers and historians in an attempt to identify them. I also have Native and Metis friends, not one of whom has ever objected to my ownership of them. Were that to be the case, I would certainly offer to return them, as I do have great respect for the cultures and customs from which they originated.
    9. walksoftly walksoftly, 11 years ago
      I'm glad you took my remarks the way that they were intended, I just got the April edition of Canadian Geographic yesterday & that is where that info came from. I may be a prairie boy but I have always been intrigued by the West Coast Cultures.
    10. Knifeguy, 11 years ago
      In reality, it was the government of Canada who stole huge numbers of Sacred pieces. They were equally at fault with the churches of the day at having potlatching banned for close to a century. A few hundred masks and other ceremonial pieces were finally given back to the tribes about 20 years ago.


    11. bushrat bushrat, 11 years ago
      I'll let you all in on a little story: about 12 years ago, I was visiting Vancouver and Seattle on business. In my attempt to identify these masks, I took them along and visited the BC museum of Anthropology at the university, and to some leading art dealers of early Native works. I also spoke with several modern-day Native carvers whose works were selling in the 4, 5 and 6-figure range. I thought: hey, if anyone knows, these guys will. I pulled a couple of the masks out of my bag, whereupon one of the younger carvers snorted: "huh; old guy's work!" He obviously wasn't awestruck; but, at the museum, the closest I could find were Kwakwaka'wakw pieces from 1850-70, or thereabouts. That's about as far as my research went; anyone with better or further info is welcome to send it along.
    12. Benking, 11 years ago
      That is great Bush!

      Any other values too?
    13. bushrat bushrat, 11 years ago
      Thanks knifeguy and kerry
    14. bushrat bushrat, 11 years ago
      Thanks, Tlynnie

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