Remarkable Inupiaq Ivory Cribbage Board

This exquisite polar bear cribbage board showcases the remarkable artistry of an unknown Inupiaq artist from King Island. Carved from a single piece of ivory, the board features two polar bears with meticulously detailed teeth and red ink highlighting their tongues. Additionally, six walrus head figures, inked in black, adorn the board. Measuring 25 inches in length, 2.8 inches in width, and 1.9 inches in height, this piece stands as a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of Inupiaq artists. Created around 1925, the cribbage board reflects a rich tradition of detailed walrus ivory carvings. Unfortunately, this stunning cribbage board has already been sold.

Cultural Context and Significance

The Inupiaq people, originally from the King Islands, now predominantly live on mainland Alaska. During World War II, a tuberculosis outbreak, the closing of local schools, and the lure of off-island economies prompted many families to relocate from King Island. By the 1970s, most families had moved. Today, many Inupiaq reside near Nome, Alaska.

Whales and walruses play a crucial role in the nutritional and cultural practices of Alaska Natives. They utilize the meat, blubber, skin, and organs as rich sources of food. Additionally, they process the hides to cover boats, and carve the tusks into intricate ivory walrus carvings. These carvings are highly valued by collectors, providing a source of income for the artists.

In addition to ivory carvings, Inupiaq artists also create baleen baskets, further showcasing their diverse craftsmanship and deep connection to their environment and heritage.

For further information on Alaskan Native arts and the historical context of the Inupiaq people, you can visit:

polar bear ivory cribbage board

Artist Unknown   ca 1925

Carved walrus tusk cribbage board from King Island

Walrus ivory & ink – 2.8 x 25.2 x 1.9 inches   3.7 pounds