Needle Case (USA), Created before 1947
This is a Needle case.
A Yup’ik woman’s ability to sew was critical to her family’s survival—just as men had to master hunting, women had to learn to sew and mend before marrying. This case housed a woman’s essential needles, made of bone and with or without eyes. These bone, ivory, or deer horn awls were used to pierce gutskin or animal skins, then to stitch the seam closed.
This case was made of a hollow swan wing bone and has wooden stoppers at each end, representing the head and tail of what is probably a blackfish. The bone is delicately incised with crosshatching, rings, and spurred lines—patterns frequently employed in the Yup’ik community. The remarkable skill the carver applied to an extremely utilitarian object speaks to the connection between maker, user, and environment: the expertise and the decoration honor the swan that provided the material and the blackfish, giving sustenance to the people.
It is credited
National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 21/800.
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Its dimensions are
L x W x D: 14.5 x 1.6 x 1.3 cm (5 11/16 x 5/8 x 1/2 in.)
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Tools: Extending Our Reach.