Brown Bear Mask

Brown bear mask used by a Hoonah Íxt’ in the 1800’s.

This mask is made of red alder, copper, human hair, hide, and red, black, and blue/green paint. There are human faces in the ears, and land otters go from ear to ear under the chin. The ears are trimmed with human hair. Since this mask has both human and bear ears it might represent a transformation of a bear into a human, or a human into a bear. This piece is 10.25 inches or 26.6cm long.

Cultural Narrative: 

Tlingits learned to live alongside brown bears in relative peace by honoring and showing respect for their bear relatives.

Traditional Knowledge: 

The brown bear had many human qualities and at one time humans and bears could communicate with one another. They could be powerful allies for the Íxt’ when battling the dark side. Brown bears were the most revered of the land animals and were often chosen by Íxt’s to be their spirit helpers.


Glacier Bay, Huna Tlingit. Collection history unknown; purchased by George Heye in 1909.