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Alaskan ivory, ledger artwork exhibited

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News from the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana

CHARLO – A new exhibit opens at Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana on Saturday, May 4. “CAKARPEKNAKI:  With Respect and Without Waste,” celebrates the culture and traditions of Alaskan natives through a carved ivory collection recently donated to the museum by member Hugh Magnussen in honor of his wife, Jutta. 

The term “cakarpeknaki” means “with respect and without waste,” which reflects the respect felt by the indigenous people of Alaska towards the animals, people and the land and speaks to the connections among these three. This collection of Alaskan ivory artwork by various artists was acquired over a lifetime by Hugh Magnussen and his wife who passed away in 2017. The artwork is carved meticulously from walrus tusk, fossilized mammoth, and whale bone and teeth. Even though the sale of elephant ivory is banned in the U.S., Alaskan ivory can be legally collected, carved and sold by Alaskan Natives under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and has become an important part of the economy in Alaska. Many Alaskan artists depend on sales to bring in cash to support their families through the winter. 

This collection depicts carvings of animals from coastal Alaska such as the polar bear, wolves, walrus and caribou; native hunters and shaman; and other objects made from ivory like shipping vessels and scrimshaw. As a whole, the collection symbolizes the harsh life in coastal Alaska and the complex relationship between man and nature for survival.

Also on Saturday, May 4, the museum invites people to stop by to enjoy the ledger and beadwork art by Blackfeet artist James Redfox, of Browning. Our May “First Saturday” artist will be at the museum from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. to exhibit and talk about his artwork. Redfox is a self-taught artist who began beading in 1991, and he placed second during a native art show in Tacoma, Washington, with a beaded purse. He started creating ledger art in 2011. This pictorial art form tells stories with drawings filled in with bright colors on ledger paper. Traditionally, the narrative of the Plains Indians was created on hides, but in the late 19th century, following the near elimination of the buffalo and removal of tribes to reservations, Native artists started using non-traditional materials to continue telling their stories. 

Mark your calendars to spend a few hours on Saturday visiting the museum and Redfox. Light refreshments will be on hand, and the museum entry fee is half-priced.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The gift shop is stocked with other great pieces by local artists, just in time to make Mother’s Day purchases. Call 406-644-3435 for information or to schedule a group tour.

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