- Museum number
Apron made of skin, deer (hooves).
- Production date
Length: 67 centimetres
Width: 107 centimetres
Depth: 3 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Find Spot/Ethic Name:
The register for the twelve Shipster objects (Am1919,1216.1 – 12) indicates that these objects were purchased from Capt. Shipster, though they were in fact acquired by the museum ten years after his death, and other correspondence indicates they were purchased from his widow, Ina Mary Pym. The register is specific about where the objects were acquired and to what peoples they belonged – Q. Charlotte Island (Haida Gwaii) and Haida people. The register, as quoted below, is also specific about what graves these objects came from: 8 coming from what is referred to as a chief’s grave, although the nature of the material/objects suggest that this would actually have been a shaman’s grave. Given the specificity and description in the register (see end of comment), it seems reasonable to believe that Shipster collected these objects on Haida Gwaii.
In Shipster’s time as Captain on the HMS Pheasant (1894 – 1897), ships logs indicate that the HMS Pheasant left Sitka, Alaska on 29th June 1896, and arrived at Naden Harbour, on the North end of Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Island), on the first of July, 1896, to leave there the next day, on the second of July 1896. This was the only stop at Haida Gwaii that the HMS Pheasant made. If Shipster collected these objects from a graveyard on Haida Gwaii having sailed into Naden Harbour, it is almost certain that these objects would have been acquired from the village of Kung (or Dream Town).
Kung is an ancient Haida village, which had been vacated by 1884 but in 1840 was reported to have close to 300 inhabitants and fifteen houses. The village is located at the entrance to Naden Harbour at Virago Sound, on the west shore of Alexander Narrows. The harbour is 8 miles long and is 17 miles west of the village of Masset. In 1897, a year after Shipster was in Naden Harbour, the anthropologist George A. Dorsey was also in Kung, collecting objects for the Field Museum of Chicago, collecting from the graveyard in Kung as well as other areas on the Northwest Coast. Dorsey wrote a description of a grave of a Shaman in the graveyard at Kung, his description as follows:
“What proved of special interest were several very old graves which faced the beach on the east side of the village. These were the burial places of medicine men or Shamans, and quite different from the ordinary grave, instead of a single pole in which the body is placed through a hole in the top or at the side, or from the double pole platform grave which we saw at Kung. We found a little house built of short cedar logs. Inside was placed the Shaman in a long coffin-box reclining at full length with his rattles and other ceremonial paraphernalia about him. With one had been placed several very fine masks, but they were almost entirely crumbled to dust.”
All of the above leads to a conclusion of provenance for the find spot of Haida Gwaii, Naden Harbour, village of Kung, even though most of the voyage of the HMS Pheasant was spent in the waters off Alaska. The one object that does not necessarily conform strictly to Haida Gwaii origins is the rattle, object 2, in the form of an oystercatcher. This has been identified on stylistic grounds as likely of Alaskan origin. While the rattle stylistically does seem to reflect Alaskan origins, there could be many plausible explanations that place a stylistically Alaskan rattle in a grave on Haida Gwaii, either through trade or the known practice of adopting styles from other Northwest Coast groups when creating carvings or paintings. As an example of such stylistic adaptation from the same general time period and place, one can consider the work of Albert Edward Edenshaw when he lived in Kung: in 1850 the Haida chief Albert Edward Edenshaw moved from the Haida Gwaii village of Kiusta to Kung and built his long house (House That Can Hold a Great Crowd of People). This house had many Kaigani (Alaskan) Haida features, Edenshaw having ties to Alaska through his marriage to a Kaigani Haida woman from Klinkwan, and Edenshaw subsequently receiving a commission to carve a totem pole from the chief of Klinkwan . The presence of this stylistically-Alaskan rattle in this group of material does not necessarily suggest that this group of material is Alaskan.
From the observations section of the British Museum register, the entry for Am1919,1216.1 – 12:
“1. Skull of a chief, found in a grave, (HAIDA Indians. Q. Charlotte Id.
Associated with the following objects: 2 to 8. Brt. Columbia.
2. Chief’s rattle.
3. Chief’s totemic carving, a whale.
4. Chief’s food-dish, with totemic carving
5. Chief’s mask.
6. Totemic figure, placed above chief’s grave, in centre of cemetery.
7. model of chief’s knife.
8. Chief’s dancing staff, for use in winter ceremonies.
9. Wooden mask, from another grave in the same cemetery as 1.
10. from grave in same cemetery as 1
11. [as above]
12. Chilkat blanket [as above]”
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This object was purchased from Ina Mary Shipster, widow of Lieutenant Henry Reginald Shipster.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number