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A small labret or lip plug which is painted red on one side and inlaid with a small piece of haliotis shell. The labret is deeper than it is wide, and has what appears to be grease stains on its sides.; Good


Written on the labret in what is probably W.Hepburn' s hand is Fort Simpson, B.C. . Fort Simpson was a trading centre where many northern tribes brought objects to sell to collectors. (G.Crowther). After a period of seclusion at the onset of puberty young girls had their lower lips pierced and a small labret inserted, as a symbol of their assumption of a social role. The occasion of lip piercing was often marked by a small feast, or was part of the proceedings of potlatches. Through life a succession of larger labrets were inserted, culminating for the highest ranking women in the largest, elaborately inlaid wood labrets, known among the Tlingit as mouth stones . The larger labretswere made from wood which made them lighter and presumably easier to wear. In general the smaller sized labrets were universal for women of middle age and low rank, while the largest were worn by older high ranking women. The labrets were removed, but never in the presence of strangers. Many early European travellers accounts noted women wearing labrets and the reporting reveals that to European sensibilities the labrets were abhorrent. Since contact with European culture the tradition of wearing labrets has ceased. One of the masks in the CUMAA collection is a good example of a woman wearing a large labret, E 1911.25. Its collector, Heneage Wynn Finch noted the following in a letter Baron von Hugel: In the mask with the labret the teeth are represented by pieces of the shell of the haliotis, as you have doubtless noticed. I do not think any of the Alaskan Indian tribes at present wear the labret, at any rate none of the Indians I have seen in my visits there did. (G.Crowther).; Exhibited: New Anthropological displays at CUMAA, square case, object number 1, 1990-.; Collected by: Hepburn.J.E

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