This argillite sculpture of a shaman and his assistants is a fine example of the art that was produced by the Haida people of Haida Gwaii, or the Queen Charlotte Islands, for sale to Europeans. The motifs, the patterns that are involved here, their traditional clam patterns, their legends, their stories.
For instance, the shaman figure that you see here is identified by his elaborate and long hair, by the nose-piece, the ivory nose-piece going through his septum.
But these things weren't really produced in large quantities until the fur traders and the whalers started showing up in Haida Gwaii in the nineteenth century.
All of a sudden there was a new market that develops. So it wasn't just fur that was being traded but these "curiosities of the country" were being produced for resale to Europeans. This is a fine example of a relatively large piece that was produced probably for this purpose.
After the First World War, the HBC was looking at getting involved in new markets, expanding its fur trade into areas that as yet hadn't been really developed as intensively. So Kamchatka in Siberia was one of the first places they looked at.
To make this possible, they acquired a new ship called the S.S. Baychimo. Interestingly, this was war reparations from the Germans paid to the British Crown that the Hudson's Bay Company then bought from the British.
While they were working in Kamchatka, a number of objects were collected from the Chukchi, the indigenous people of Siberia who are famed for their work in ivory.
So the two objects that you see are, first of all a walrus tusk that has been decorated in size much like scrimshaw that has been associated with whalers, with images of daily life for the Chukchi people.
So you see reindeer, or caribou, that are towing a sleigh, you see a whale being pursued and being butchered, you see sleigh dogs, you see people in their domestic settings illustrated on this. It's an interesting piece of folk art that shows some of the traditional life of the Chukchi people.
On the other hand, we have the model ship of the S.S. Baychimo. This was something new and unusual that came in, so the Chukchi people crafted this beautiful reproduction, miniature reproduction of the ship itself.
Now where the Baychimo becomes more interesting is in 1931 it was abandoned in the ice off of Barrow, just left by the Hudson's Bay Company. They took a lot of the goods off, the people all deserted it. They left it as a hull basically.
However, every year, every two years, every five years, every ten years, the ship would show up again. It became famed as the ghost ship of the arctic. The last definite sighting of it was in 1969.
And in fact the Alaska government, the state government right now is doing a little bit of an investigation to try and find out the ultimate fate of the Baychimo.
So not only do we have these beautiful objects that illustrate the carving skills of the Chukchi people, it illustrates a really interesting attempt, venture by the Hudson's Bay Company to get involved in post-revolutionary Russia in a business venture. And we also have the ghost ship of the arctic.
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