The Yup'ik People
The Yup'ik are a group of indigenous peoples native to western, southwestern, and south-central Alaska, and the Russian Far East.
Because this part of the world is very remote, and hunting is still vital to their existence, the Yup'ik and other indigenous peoples of this area are allowed to hunt walrus and whale in order to maintain their traditional subsistence lifestyle. They make use of every part of the animal. The meat is dried and frozen to be consumed throughout the year, hides are used to cover boats, and the ivory tusks and whale bones are carved into art and sold.
The carving and selling of walrus ivory and whale bone sculpture is an important source of employment on St. Lawrence Island. Most Yup'ik carvers live in the St. Lawrence Island area. St. Lawrence Island lies off the northwest coast of Alaska, 32 miles from the Siberian coastline. The villages of Gambell and Savoonga are located in this remote corner of the Bering Sea. The Siberian Yup'ik Eskimos who live in these villages still hunt walrus and whale for a few short weeks every spring and fall, just as their ancestors did for thousands of years.
The Yup'ik cavings sold at True North are made of seasoned walrus ivory or fossilized ivory. Sometimes inlaid whale baleen is used for details. Note: The Pacific walrus is not endangered or threatened. Nonetheless, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oversees and manages the limited hunting of walrus by indigenous peoples.
Seasoned Walrus Ivory
After the walrus harvest, the ivory is dried for several months before carving. Note: The Pacific walrus is not endangered or threatened. Nonetheless, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oversees and manages the limited hunting of walrus by indigenous peoples.
Prehistoric walrus ivory and mammoth ivory is harvested from the beaches of St. Lawrence Island. As much as 10,000 years old, fossilized ivory has a wider range of color than fresh ivory. Only theYup'ik and other indigenous peoples are allowed to harvest the fossilized ivory from this area.
The black eyes, claws and other inlaid details in ivory carvings are usually created from baleen, which are the feeding plates of the bowhead whale. The plates are used to filter food from the sea.