Yup’ik or Inuit/Inupiat people, Alaska or Canada, Covered Basket

Yup’ik or Inuit/Inupiat people, Alaska or Canada

George Omnik (American, 1905 – 1978), Point Hope, Alaska

Covered Basket, c. 1960-70 

coiled baleen, whale ivory, pigments 

Gift of Florence Hendrycy, 1982 (5033.1) 

 Baleen is the keratinous substance from the mouths of filter-feeding whales that gathers plankton and krill from the seawater for consumption. Baleen has long been used by native Arctic peoples to make containers, sled runners, fish line, lashing, and nets. Coiled baleen baskets are a recent adaptation from traditional coiled willow-root baskets. First produced by men in the early 20th century, predominantly for the tourist market, the baskets are woven while the baleen is submerged in water to keep it pliable.