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Native American Art

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Shaman Medicine Charm

6 1/4 x 2 1/4 in. (15.9 x 5.7 cm)

Tlingit artist
United States

Tlingit; made in Alaska

Object Type: Sculpture
Medium and Support: Walrus ivory
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Henry A. Strong
Accession Number: 1922.5
Location: Currently on view
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The belief that humans can draw power from the non-human world is a framework that underlies many belief systems, and is especially strong in most Native North American culture groups. Shamans played an especially important role in this respect. Responsible for curing the sick, controlling the weather, guaranteeing successful fish runs, combating witches, and providing assistance during battle, shamans moved freely between the human and spirit world. Tlingit shamans often carried charms like this one. Each charm is unique and often includes a multiplicity of figures. This charm is in the form of a whale, with the rear assuming the form of a land otter, a highly powerful spirit helper to the shaman.
[Gallery label text, 2009]

Lucretia Cushman (nee Johnson), Tacoma, Washington; sold to Mrs. Henry A. Strong, Rochester, New York; given to the Gallery in 1922

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