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Walrus Ivory Wolf etching by Yupik Billy Boy Soonagrook St. Lawrence Island


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by William (Billy Boy) Soonagrook Jr. of St. Lawrence Island, North Bering Sea

Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft. It was carved and significantly transformed from marine mammal walrus ivory into Authentic Alaska Native Eskimo handicraft and signed by Alaska Native Eskimo artist William (Billy Boy) Soonagrook Jr.

This beautiful Wolf was etched and inked on an ivory tusk of a walrus by William Soonagrook Jr. 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. On a clear day (which is rare) you can see the mountains of Siberia.

William has carved for many years and is a master carver. He carves from ivory tusks of walrus, walrus bone and whalebone, and trims them with baleen from Bowhead whales. His carvings are featured in a book titled: Eskimo Carvers of the Bering Sea, by Dale Kessler.

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 proud culture and way of life in a very remote and harsh area.

Northern Gray Wolf, or "Amaa" - which is Wolf in the Siberian Yup'ik language. This beautiful Wolf was etched on an ivory tusk of a walrus. The center of the walrus tusk is a golden yellow rich mottled texture while the outer portions are a smooth cream and pure white, hence color and texture variations. This piece was carved from the outer cream colored part of the tusk.

The old Yup'ik people were animists. The wolf was considered sacred and could not be killed. Killer whales were also revered as protectors of hunters; it was also thought that the killer whale became a wolf in winter and devoured the reindeer unless some of the reindeer submitted to the hunters.
Care of ivory includes avoiding hot dry locations, such as direct sun in a window or a heat register. Remember, our pet dogs, cats and birds also like ivory carvings!

The piece measures 3 1/2 inches long, 1 3/8 inches wide, and 1/4 inches thick.

It would make a great unique gift for someone who appreciates one of a kind gifts or a great addition to a collection. It was etched by a Native Eskimo from a very remote area of the USA.

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