Tlingit medicine man or Shaman figure in horn headdress and regalia. Medicine people were an integral part of life on the Northwest Coast – they functioned as healers, leaders, and used their connection to the spirit world to divine the locations of game, fish, enemies, and to protect the villages they resided in. Prior to widespread Christianization and the active religious and government persecution of medicine people, they filled several important roles in their respective cultures. Amongst the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian, medicine people would often wear headdresses (“crowns”) of mountain goat horn or bear claws while doing their work. They would also don hide or woven tunics and aprons with bone, ivory, or antler charms attached that would aid them in their endeavors.
This figure of a medicine person was carved by an unknown, but prolific and well-established, Tlingit master carver. This maker produced these figurines in two sizes – a larger 16-inch figure and a smaller 9-inch figure, like this one. These medicine man figurines were sold up and down the coast, and have been documented in shops in Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, Ketchikan, Wrangell, Juneau, and Skagway. The figure is well-carved and depicts a northern Northwest Coast medicine man in full regalia, including bear claw or horn headdress, a tunic featuring a human face (perhaps representing a spirit) and a fringed apron. The medicine man is cleanly carved in red cedar and securely mounted on its original base. These figurines are less common than they were even a decade ago and are highly sought after by collectors. This is a particularly nice example and would make an excellent addition to any Northwest Coast collection.
PERIOD: Circa 1920
ORIGIN: Tlingit, Alaska