Killer Whale Crest Hat

This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.
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Repatriation of the Tlingit Killer Whale Hat

Under the repatriation provisions of the National Museum of the American Indian Act, the Smithsonian Institution is required to inventory its Native American collections and identify the tribal origins of human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony. If requested by the culturally affiliated tribe, the museum is to return the items or remains. This process is known as repatriation. In the case of the Tlingit Killer Whale Hat or Keet Saaxw, the leader of the Daklaweidi clan of Angoon, Alaska, Mark Jacobs, Jr., requested the return of the hat as both a sacred object and an object of cultural patrimony. The National Museum of Natural History agreed that the hat was both a sacred object and an object of cultural patrimony to the clan and found that it had been sold to the Smithsonian by someone who did not have the authority to sell it. In 2005, the Museum repatriated the hat to Mr. Jacobs in his hospital room in Sitka, Alaska, where it was with him when he passed away only 11 days later. The hat has continued to serve as an important clan crest object to this day.

Baule woodcarvers at work, Yagolikro village, Ivory Coast
Photograph by Eliot Elisofon, 1972. Image no. EEPA EECL 6900. Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution

About Humans and the Environment

Humans have always manipulated their environment, whether by acquiring food, making and using tools, or other aspects of daily life. They are constantly interacting with their environment on a daily basis. By using the available materials, humans have created shelter, made tools, created containers and vessels, and produced items of personal and cultural significance. Many of these resources are naturally occurring, such as stones, minerals, animal bones, or organic fibers from plants, while others are made from combining materials. The process of acquiring these materials and the manufacturing process can be traditional practices that are passed down from one generation to another. Because materials are unique to the location of different communities and cultures, by studying the types of materials, as well as animal remains found and the processes used to manipulate them, anthropologists and researchers can learn about the daily activities and lifestyles of the cultures they are studying. In what ways do you interact with your environment on a daily basis?

A mask dancer performs a traditional Indonesian dance
Photographs courtesy of Dr. Mark Hobart

About Ceremonies and Rituals

Cultures around the world observe different rituals and ceremonies. These can occur for a variety of reasons, but they all serve a significant purpose for participants. Some rituals and ceremonies are related to religious practices, such as the complex dances of the Hopi people of the American Southwest. In these rituals, the Hopi believe that the dancers actually become the Katsina ancestors or spiritual messengers. These rituals are used to honor the ancestors and acknowledge their role in bringing rainfall. Other ceremonies and rituals are essential to social relations within and between communities. For example, tribes of the Northwest coast of North America celebrate life events through a festival feast and gathering known as a potlatch. This allows for the members of the communities to redistribute wealth among them and reconnect. Status in these ceremonies is granted to those who give the most, not those who are given the most. In what sort of ceremonies or rituals does your culture or family participate?