Return to Main Home Animation Book 1,  Northwest Coast Book 2 / Arctic  Book3,  Woodlands Download PDF of Book 1, Northwest Coast
The Steven Michaan Collection of North American Tribal Art : The Art of the Spirit World : Actic
Inuit or Thule
Arrow Straightener in the form of a Caribou
Ivory, 6” Length, c.1700 -1860
Arrow Straightener in the form of a Caribou
Arrow Straightener in the form of a Caribou

Once again, a fine example of a utilitarian object whose form and decoration belies not only its function but also its meaning.

This ivory caribou is formed to perfectly fit into the hand, where it might be held for the purpose of pulling wooden arrow shafts and fletches through the squared hole in the animal’s side, in order to train the shafts into a perfectly straight stalk.

This action is akin to sharpening a steel blade with a stone, training the molecular particles in the blade into alignment with each stroke. In taking the repetitive and meditative turns at pushing and pulling the arrow shafts through the straightening tool, the hunter focuses attention upon his subsequent duties, perhaps even using the caribou model to commune with the real animal in a sort of telepathic prayer.

This tool is simultaneously amulet, doll and training device. Its squared hole is located through the center of the animal’s belly, where the hunter will eventually aim. The hole is also suggestive of the joint markings seen on many other animal representations, which themselves represent the spiritual significance of the animal, and is considered a conduit through which life spirits pass.

In this case, the hunter literally pushes his arrow through the caribou’s joint, and metaphorically communes with and practices killing the creature, upon which his village’s lives depend.