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Walrus Oosik Bone Cribbage Board by Eskimo Carver William Soonagrook


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by William Soonagrook Sr. of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from marine mammal walrus oosik bone and ivory into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist William Soonagrook Sr.

This stunning walrus oosik bone cribbage board with a walrus ivory Shaman transformer was carved by William Soonagrook Sr. of Gambell, Alaska, a small Siberian Yup'ik Eskimo village of about 700 people on St. Lawrence Island, just south of the Bering Straits. Their language is spoken on both the U.S. and Russian side of the straits. It's about 140 miles off shore from Nome Alaska, and about 40 miles from Russia, one of the most remote areas of the U.S. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Russia.

William has carved for many years and is a master carver. His sons Billy Boy, Ladd and Moses and are well known carvers in Alaska. Their work is featured the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Airport collection, the Wells Fargo Collection and private collections. His work is also featured in a book titled "Ivory Carvers of St. Lawrence Island" by Dale Kessler.

He carves from ivory tusks of walrus, walrus bone and whalebone, and trims them with baleen from Bowhead whales. Much walrus ivory, walrus bone and whalebone are either dug up or found washed up on beaches after storms. Carving is a rich tradition for the Native Alaskan people on St. Lawrence Island, it helps sustain their ancient and proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.

"Agleghnaq" which is "revered object" in the Siberian Yup'ik language. William carved this very unusual cribbage board from an "oosik" bone of a male walrus. An “Oosik” is a baculum (penis bone) found in many mammals such as Pine Martins, deer, Sea Lions, otters, black bear and walrus. The walrus oosik is the largest and can be over 2 feet in length. He mounted a walrus ivory carving of an transformed Shaman Bird woman on one end and a man/bear on the other end. The spots on the Bird woman's face are inlaid baleen.

It features Bird Woman on one end and a half man and half Polar Bear on the other end. I asked Bill about the story behind the piece. He told me when he was a young boy his grandmother told him a story of a Yupik Hunter and his wife were crossing the ice from Siberia and were approached by a Polar Bear and Raven. The man was transformed into a Polar Bear and the woman was transformed into a raven and became the Shaman for the village and the Siberian Yup’ik people, and had great powers of healing, dream interpretation and could drive away evil spirits. Shamans typically had feminine qualities of dress and long hair, which helped in their intuitive abilities.

The oosik is  mounted with a baleen pin on a baleen base carved into a Seal. The scoring pieces are a Yupik family carved from walrus ivory. One has a young child on his shoulders.

Care of walrus bone and ivory includes avoiding hot dry areas like direct sun in a window or heat from a heat register. Give it an occasional very light coating of mineral oil or baby oil, put it on a cloth first or a Q-tip. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds really like bone and ivory also!

Bill's signature is on the bottom or the piece. The piece measures 20 7/8 inches long (if size matters!), the woman's face is is 1 3/4 inches wide, 2 1/8 inches high.

It's a very unusual and unique piece, and would be a real out of the ordinary gift for yourself or someone special. It's carved by a Native carver from a very remote area of the world. How many people do you know with an Oosik Cribbage Board!

Buy it now!