Feeding the Ancestors presents an exquisite group of carved spoons from the Pacific Northwest that resides in the collections of Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Carved from the horns of mountain goats and Dall sheep, and incorporating elements of abalone shell and metal, most of the spoons were collected in Alaska in the late nineteenth century and were made and used by members of the Tlingit tribe. Hillel Burger’s beautiful color photographs reveal every nuance of the carvers’ extraordinary artistry.
Anne-Marie Victor-Howe introduces the collectors and describes the means by which these and other ethnographic objects were acquired. In the process, she paints a vivid picture of the “Last Frontier” just before and shortly after the United States purchased Alaska. A specialist in the ethnography of the Native peoples of the Northwest Coast, Victor-Howe provides a fascinating glimpse into these aboriginal subsistence cultures as she explains the manufacture and function of traditional spoons. Her accounts of the clan stories associated with specific carvings and of the traditional shamanic uses of spoons are the result of extensive consultation with Tlingit elders, scholars, and carvers.
Feeding the Ancestors is the first scholarly study of traditional feast spoons and a valuable contribution to our knowledge of Pacific Northwest Coast peoples and their art.