Raven Sculpture

This small piece was cast from the original Argillite carving by Hoonah artist Amos Wallace. Amos was a member of the T’akdeintaan clan, his Tlingit name was Jeet Yaaw Dustaa.

Amos carved the Raven standing on a bentwood box that could contain one of the examples from above. The size of the carving allowed Amos a little more area to carve so on this piece you see the development of formline. The original piece was carved from Argillite one of three stone types that Tlingits used to make their art. The Raven is posed on top of a box that could contain daylight or knowledge, and the box itself has formline on it also. Also, in this pose of the Raven his beak is extending straight out while at other times his beak is pointing down against his chest so that the entire sculpture looks like one piece with no protuberances sticking out. Both styles are commonly used to depict birds. If this piece was a large wood carving the beak would be an add on and would have had to have been carved separate and then added on later.

Cultural Narrative: 

Yeil (Raven) is one of two moieties with Ch’áak’ (Eagle) being the other that make up the Tlingit nation. As a member of Tlingit, one must always consider how their actions affect the opposite moiety. Balance is a cultural value that is a cornerstone of Tlingit society. Every action must be considered as to how it will affect balance within the society, and when things become unbalanced it must be corrected immediately. Traditionally only Ravens could marry Eagles and only Eagles could marry Ravens. This a matrilineal society so children inherit everything through their mother’s clan, but always honor the father’s clan, again this is to maintain balance.

Traditional Knowledge: 

Raven was considered the transformer of the physical world in Tlingit mythology and is one of two moieties of the Tlingit nation. Raven guarded the Box of Daylight and the Box of Knowledge.

Amos Wallace
Raven figurine made of carved and polished argillite.

Cast from an original Amos Wallace carving dated 1967; purchased by Indian Arts and Crafts Board representatives from Baranof's Gift Shop (Juneau, Alaska) in 1973; part of the IACB Headquarters collection (Department of the Interior, Washington, DC) until 2000 when it was transferred to NMAI.