Ivory Polar Bear with a Seal

The Artwork

  • Artist: Mitchell Toolie from Savoonga
  • Material: Walrus ivory with baleen eyes
  • Dimensions: 5″ long, 1.5″ wide, and 2.25″ high
  • Features: Carving of a polar bear with a seal in its mouth, signed by the artist
  • Availability: SOLD

About the Artist and Family

Mitchell Toolie hails from a family renowned for their exceptional ivory carvings. The Toolie family, based in Savoonga, has a longstanding tradition of creating highly detailed and polished artworks from walrus ivory, a skill they have passed down through generations. Consequently, their artworks are highly respected and sought after.

Cultural and Geographical Context

  • Location: Savoonga and Gambell, St. Lawrence Island
  • Population: Less than 1500 people, predominantly Yupik Eskimos
  • Geography: St. Lawrence Island lies 32 miles from the Siberian coast in the Bering Sea
  • Cultural Connection: The Yupik people share linguistic, cultural, and familial ties with those on the southern Chukchi Peninsula of Russia. Therefore, the cultural heritage extends beyond geographical boundaries.

Significance of Walrus Ivory

Walruses play a vital role in the lives of the Yupik people, both nutritionally and culturally:

  • Food Source: The meat, blubber, skin, and organs provide a rich diet.
  • Cultural Uses: Hides cover boats, and tusks are carved into intricate ivory artworks.
  • Economic Importance: Ivory carvings sold to collectors provide significant income for Yupik communities. Thus, the walrus is central to both their economy and culture.

Modern-Day Practices

Yupik carvers continue to create detailed and intricate artworks, maintaining their cultural heritage while adapting to contemporary markets. As a result, collectors worldwide highly seek these carvings for their fine craftsmanship and cultural significance.


Mitchell Toolie’s walrus ivory carving showcases the rich cultural heritage and exceptional artistry of the Yupik people. Despite being sold, such pieces symbolize the intricate craftsmanship and cultural importance of Yupik carvings, reflecting their deep connection to the walrus and their traditional way of life. For further exploration and examples of Alaskan ivory carvings, visit Tribal Crafts and Amazon.

walrus ivory polar bear seal

Mitchell Toolie     Yupik

Ivory polar bear with a seal

Walrus ivory, baleen, and ink – 2.25 x 5.0 x 1.5 inches