Traditional Arts

Traditional Arts

Traditional Arts

ASCA

Northern Alaska

Ivory carvings are the most popular crafts produced by the Inupiat Eskimos of the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea regions who hunt walrus for meat and utilize the skins and tusks for clothing and crafts. Unlike many marine mammals, the walrus is not an endangered species and is in fact more plentiful now than it was 100 years ago.

Only Alaska Natives are allowed to possess unworked ivory, which can only be sold after it is handcrafted. Walrus hunting and ivory carving are essential to the survival of the traditional Northern Eskimo cultures.

Some carved items are made of fossil or mineralized ivory which comes from the found tusks of both walrus and prehistoric mammoths and mastadons.

Other crafts produced by the Eskimos of this region include baleen and birch bark baskets, hide and whale bone masks, carvings of whale bone, intricate dolls, and needlecrafts utilizing local furs.

IANA

Southwest Alaska

The Yupik Eskimos of Southwestern Alaska specialize in fine quality baskets, made of beach grasses. Basket weaving reflects a healthy and growing cultural tradition.

The carving of walrus ivory and the creation of imaginative spirit masks are also cornerstones of Yupik Eskimo art.

A relatively new craft is being produced by a cooperative Southwestern Eskimo knitters who transform luxurious musk ox wool (qiviut) into intricately patterned garments. Yupik Eskimos are well known for their beautiful dolls and miniature models depicting Eskimo lifestyles. Tiny kayaks, dog sleds and the like are painstakingly crafted of wood, ivory, skins and other available materials.

Central and Interior Alaska

The beautiful beadwork created by the Athabascan Indian women of interior Alaska is highly prized by collectors of Alaska Native crafts. The traditional use of beads made of carved wood, seeds, quills and shells predates the Athabascans' contact with Europeans who introduced glass trade beads in the mid-nineteenth century

Today this handsome beadwork is found on mittens, moccasins, and other items of clothing and jewelry. The hides and furs of local animals are usually featured in the handcrafted clothing from this region.

Other crafts made by the Indians of Interior and Central Alaska include birch bark baskets, willow root baskets, soapstone and wood carving, dolls, and jewelry.

Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands

The Aleut people, who live on the Alaska Peninsula, along the Aleutian Chain, and on the Pribilof Islands have a life centered around the sea.

Among the finest baskets in Alaska are the tiny, intricately woven Aleut baskets made of pliable, tough rye grass, which is abundant in the area. 

The three main styles of Aleut baskets - Attu, Atka and Unalaska - are named after the islands where the styles originated. Although the small baskets are the best known, the Aleuts also make larger, more utilitarian style baskets.

Other traditional items characteristic of the Aleuts are birdskin parkas, decorated wooden visor hats, and models depicting Aleut lifestyle

ASCA

AK TOURISM

AK TOURISM

Southeast Alaska

Abundant resources and a milder climate allowed the Native people of Southeast Alaska, the Tlingits, Haidas and Tsimshians, to develop a very sophisticated culture in which the art forms reflect family crests. The colorful designs based on stylized animal forms are immediately recognized as representative of this region.

Although these Pacific Northwest Natives are best known for their totem poles, they produce many other types of crafts. Some of the most popular items are ceremonial blankets primarily of red and black felt decorated with beadwork and buttons or the very rare Chilkat blankets woven with cedar bark and the wool of mountain goats. Other items of clothing are handcrafted and beautifully decorated by these Indians.

Other crafts characteristic to this region include hand-carved silver jewelry, beadwork, woodcarvings, art prints and ceremonial masks.

ASCA


CONTEMPORARY ART

Many Alaska Natives are producing art outside the traditional boundaries of their cultures. In galleries throughout Alaska it is common to see multi media sculpture, paintings, art prints, and contemporary jewelry created by some of Alaska's finest Native artists.

These items are still considered authentic Alaska Native art and will bear the "Silver Hand" symbol, your assurance that you are buying the "genuine article'

AK TOURISM

AUTHENTIC ALASKAN ARTS
AND CRAFTS

The stores and gift shops of Alaska are filled with delightful items - fine art pieces worked in walrus ivory, soapstone, jade and other natural materials prints, paintings and pottery; clothing and jewelry; and fun souvenirs to bring home to family and friends. But not all of these items are made in Alaska. Some are manufactured in other states and countries and imported to Alaska for sale.

If you are looking for authentic Alaskan arts and crafts, look for these two symbols.

The "Silver Hand" emblem guarantees you that the article on which it appears was hand crafted by an Alaska Eskimo, Aleut, or Indian craftsperson or artist. The "Made in Alaska" emblem indicates that the article was made in Alaska by a resident artist, craftsperson or manufacturer. Wherever possible, art or craft items bearing these emblems have been made with Alaskan materials.

Look for these symbols, they assure you that you are purchasing an authentic Alaskan keepsake.

More information on the Made in Alaska program.

More information on the Silver Hand Program.

BILL TALMADGE

OTHER ALASKA CRAFT ITEMS

For those in search of items that are definitely Alaskan, but not necessarily crafted by Alaska Natives, gift shops feature a variety of souvenirs in every price range which display the "Made in Alaska" symbol. This symbol is your assurance that the item you are purchasing was made in Alaska by a resident artist, craftsperson or manufacturer

Some of the popular materials mined and harvested in Alaska include natural gold nuggets, jade, hematite, Alaska coral, fish skin leather the hides and antlers of moose and caribou, the furs of beaver, wolverine, wolf, fox, seal and a variety of other animals, soapstone, yellow and red cedar, birch bark, tree fungus, and dried flowers.

Some Alaskans who are non-Native also produce the traditional crafts of their own cultures which are also significant to Alaska's history. In many areas of coastal Alaska, including the old Russian capitals of Sitka and Kodiak, the descendants of Russian settlers produce crafts reminiscent of their Russian heritage. In Petersburg, Norwegian descendants still practice the decorative art of rosemaling.

Much of the art produced by Alaskans is simply a celebration of the natural beauty that surrounds us in "The Great Land," whether painted on a gold pan, etched in soapstone or carved in wood. Make sure the gift you buy is "Made in Alaska"

TRADITIONAL CRAFTS OF ALASKA

For thousands of years Alaska's Native peoples have created tools both functional and beautiful; and decorative items crafted from ivory animal skins, bone, wood, grasses, and many other materials. Art and beauty have always been interwoven with the history and traditions of Alaska Native cultures.

GR. AK CATALOG, MARION STIRRUP,

Today we often find new ideas interpreted in traditional ways, but the ancient crafts such as ivory carving, basketweaving, maskmaking and beadwork continue to flourish and to keep Alaska's unique cultures alive.

The "Silver Hand" and the "Made in Alaska" symbols are your assurance that the items you are buying are authentic Alaskan crafts made by Alaska residents.

Ivory Items and Canadian Customs

You can obtain a free permit to avoid a customs fee when carrying ivory items across the Canadian border en route to your non-Canadian destination. The permits are available at many gift shops or from the U.S. Department of Interior at 605 4th Ave, Anchorage, Alaska 99501, (907) 786-3211. Or, you may wish to mail your item directly to your destination.

PHOTO CREDITS
ASCA  Alaska State Council on the Arts TAHETA TAHETA Arts and Cultural Group
S. JACKSON MUSEUM Sheldon Jackson Museum ALEUT The Aleut Corporation
IANA Institute of Alaska Native Arts, Inc. AK TOURISM Alaska Division of Community and Business Development: Tourism Development
NANA NANA Museum of the Arctic GR. AK CATALOG The Great Alaska Catalog

More Detailed information on exporting ivory.

Native Arts Export Guide

Alaska Facts

State Nick Name: "The Last Frontier" - the name Alaska is derived from the Aleut word "Aleyska," meaning "great land."

State Motto: "North to the Future"

State Capital: Juneau, located in the Southeast region of Alaska, has a population of 31,275 (2010 Census)

Alaska Map:

Map of Alaska

Alaska Flag:

Alaska state flag is dark blue with yellow stars in the shape of the big dipper with the North star

NOTE: The State of Alaska is not responsible for the content/information on any site outside of a State of Alaska department.