Native American Culture/Identifying wood carving

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I recently purchased a piece in a local consignment shop and I am having a difficult time identifying the artist, tribal affiliation, or what the purpose of the piece is/was. (Is it just a wall hanging or did it serve a greater purpose at some point?) The piece measures about 15 1/2" x 11 1/2" and it weighs approx. 3 pounds. The piece is not as red as the photos suggest the colors are darker than they appear.

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It seems to be some form of cedar carving. The subject, although not all the elements are familiar to me, appear to be from the Northwest Coast tradition. Although the maker's signatures are not familai9r to me, there are quite a few carvers working. I would want to do some further research,and would look into the Bella Coola Community and the Kwagiulth Nation. The two human hands, below the bears, appear to be holding corn, which is unusual for this origin. I would also expect that the eyes of the central face are inlaid in shell mother of pearl. Abalone would probably confirm origin for me, but if other form of shell is used, then it might be a question. It seems to be a wall-hanging as it isn't set up to be a portion of a mask or ceremonial object. Hope this helps.

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Richard Sutton

Expertise

As a direct reservation trader in all aspects of American Indian arts since 1985, I've answered questions regarding cultural property issues, origins of traditional crafts, materials and techniques, collecting, authenticity, symbols and, of course, repairs! We have operated a retail gallery since that time, bricks and mortar until 2007 and online since 1996. Our online operation closed in 2/2015, to allow me to finally write full-time. My writing site can be found at www.sailletales.com I'll be adding a book or two from our trader experiences under the pen name of W.T. Durand and the rest of my fiction is under my own name. We are not "New Age" practitioners of adopted American Indian religious ceremonies or combined philosophies. If you are seeking such knowledge for spiritual reasons, we will only provide answers that address factual information on these subjects. Unless one is raised in a traditional, American Indian family with language, culture and religious belief intact, we don't believe that simply applying the trappings or cultural property of a given traditional group will give a non-Indian (Native if you prefer)any insight other than the academic.

Experience

My primary focus is on Southwester American Indian Nations and their people, but I also have experience in Plains and Northeastern traditions, having engaged in active trade and retail since 1985 and study for most of my life. I am not claiming any expertise at all in the work, techniques, lifeways or crafts that are made by the Native People of Mexico. They are not the same, either linguistically or culturally but certainly their crafts deserve discussion and appraisal by those who are able to provide real information.

Publications
I was a guest on Fox Network "Lifestyles" program, during the 1990s, to discuss how to tell forgeries, and authenticating jewelry as Native American work. I have also written extensively for our website, www.kivatrading.com and our Ebay Store.

Education/Credentials
UofO, 1970 active in the Authentic American Indian Arts business and direct Trader since 1985. Graphic Designer and published novelist.

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