Collecting Sea Otter Fur Art

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Margaret Stiefel (Yup'ik)

Margaret Stiefel (Yup’ik), “Dancer Doll,” sea otter parka, ©1987, courtesy of University of Alaska Museum of the North, UA2000-008-0001. Photo: Angela Linn.

Indian Arts and Craft Board Explains Legalities of Collecting This Unique Alaska Native Art

The US Department of the Interior’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB), announces a new consumer education brochure, Sustainable Tradition: The Beauty of the Northern Sea Otter In Alaska Native Art, to promote the creative work of Alaska Native artists and artisans who incorporate sea otter in their work. The publication is produced in collaboration with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Marine Mammals Management Office.

The brochure highlights the inherent cultural importance, beauty, and sustainability of these traditions. It also clarifies that, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, Alaska Natives may create and sell products made from sea otter hides that have been significantly altered into handicrafts and clothing, and anyone can purchase these Alaska Native made sea otter products.

Jennie Wheeler

Jennie Wheeler (Tlingit), “Beaded Moccasins,” sea otter fur trim, ©2021.

The brochure cover features a sea otter cape, headband, and trimmed gloves by Native Village of Eyak master artist Diana Riedel, who acquired the skills from her mother. Contemporary work by other outstanding Alaska Native artists, including those drawn from the IACB’s Museum collections, a beautiful doll by Margaret Stiefel (Yup’ik) from the University of Alaska Museum of the North collections, and quotes from featured Alaska Native artists complement the publication.

The brochure also offers consumer tips on purchasing and transporting authentic Alaska Native sea otter products and historical and educational facts on sea otters.

Dorea Buchea

Dora Buchea (St. Lawrence Island Yupik), “Siberian Yupik Skin Mask,” ©2003. Photo: Chris Arend.

The IACB promotes the production, sale, and protection of authentic Alaska Native and American Indian art and craftwork through its three museums and special exhibition programs, online Source Directory of authentic Native American art and craft businesses, intellectual property rights protection and consumer education activities, and enforcement of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act ‒ a truth-in-marketing law.

To learn more and download a free copy of the Sustainable Tradition: The Beauty of the Northern Sea Otter In Alaska Native Art brochure, please visit this link on the IACB’s publications page, email iacb@ios.doi.gov, or call (202) 208-3773.

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