by Beulah Oittillian of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea
Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from fur seal and walrus gut into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Yupik Eskimo dollmaker Beulah Oittillian.
This very nice Eskimo Doll was made from a variety of animals by Beulah Oittillian of Gambell, Alaska, a small Yup'ik Eskimo village of about 700 people on St. Lawrence Island, just south of the Bering Straits. The Yup'ik people have occupied the Bering Straits for thousands of years. Their native language is still spoken on both the Siberian and U.S. sides of the straits. It's about 140 miles off shore from Nome Alaska, and about 40 miles from Russia. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Russia. Carving is a rich tradition on St. Lawrence Island, it helps sustain their proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.
Beulah has made Yup'ik Eskimo Dolls for many years and is a master doll maker. Beulah’s work is featured in a book titled “Ivory Carvers of St. Lawrence Island” by Dale Kessler. Each doll is unique and one of a kind. They have maintained their uniqueness because of the isolated nature of the island.
This scene depicts a Yup'ik woman cooking whale meat or Muktuk. This beautiful handmade doll is made from a wide variety of native materials. The face, hands and fork and cooking pots are ivory from the tusk of a walrus. The eyes are inlaid baleen, a fibrous material found in the mouth of Bowhead Whales, they strain food through it. The rain coat is traditional walrus gut. The walrus gut coat is trimmed with gray-silver spotted fur seal, the trousers are also spotted fur seal. The moccasins are also walrus gut. The doll is mounted on an "Ooziva", a backbone disk from a bowhead whale, equivalent to our backbone disk. Traditionally these were carved into dishes, seal oil lamps and spirit masks.
Much of the ivory and whalebone is found washed up on beaches after storms. Doll making and carving are a rich tradition on St. Lawrence Island; it helps sustain their proud ancient culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.Woman Cooking - This beautiful doll depicts a Siberian Yup'ik Eskimo woman cooking, or "Gaaghutaa" in the Siberian Yup'ik language. It's one of a kind. The story behind the doll is about the abundance of the land and sea to provide for food, clothing and shelter. The Siberian Yup'ik people have lived in the Bering Straits for thousands of years. This harsh Arctic region is an extremely challenging area to live in, yet there is an abundance to be had from the land and sea. Hunting and gathering was the basis of survival and their culture and continues today. The times of the year offer a variety of hunting. Polar bears in the winter, whales and walrus in the spring and fall, and seals in the summer and fall. This is the traditional meal of whale meat being cooked.
Beulah signed the ooziva on the side in her traditional unique way, with a black marker, it can be seen in the photo. It measures 7 1/8 inches high, about 3 1/2 inches wide, and about 4 to 5 inches front to back. This unique handcrafted doll is one of a kind and would make a very unusual gift. It would be a wonderful addition to a collection and the subject of much conversation.
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