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The Steven Michaan Collection of North American Tribal Art : The Art of the Spirit World : Northwest Coast
Steel Dagger/ Eagle Image
Steel, Wood, Abalone Shell, Copper & Leather, 14" Length, c.1780-1810
Tlingit Killer Whale Dagger

Large, one-piece steel or iron daggers with elaborated pommels (such as the preceding weapon in this collection) were made as clan heirlooms and represented as weapons of warriors who had given their full measure in defense of clan interests and survival. Beautifully made, yet less elaborate examples, such as this one were made and worn by individual clan members as weapons of self-defense.

The finely carved eagle’s head at the pommel of this dagger indicates the clan of its owner and is a symbol of both the man’s ancestors and contemporary relatives, for whose honor he would fight.

The blade of this knife was forged in the traditional native style, with twin sharpened edges and a defined ridge down its center. It has a narrow tang bound between the two halves of a wooden grip, one side of which is attached to the carved pommel. The grip is wrapped with a rawhide strip that secures the pommel to the blade and provides a firm, reliable grip.

The bird’s head is set in a dynamic angle to the blade, depicting an eagle with fierce expression and numerous teeth set within the mandibles. These, the eyes, ears (or crest feathers), and nostrils are set with iridescent abalone shell, a sign of the wealth of trade and high cultural status.

Though few have survived, such a dagger would have originally been worn in a sheath with shoulder strap, made of either tanned hide or cloth, and possibly embroidered with either bead or quillwork.











Exhibited: Jackson Pollock et le Chamanisme
Pinacothèque de Paris, 2008