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This information was automatically generated from data provided by MOA: University of British Columbia. It has been standardized to aid in finding and grouping information within the RRN. Accuracy and meaning should be verified from the Data Source tab.


Dagger hilt, or pommel, of walrus tusk or sperm whale tooth. Main section is the shape of a bear head, with a smaller bear crouching over the top of the lower head. Inlaid abalone eyes, teeth, nostrils and ears. A human figure extends right through the large head, its legs and knees protruding from each side of the main mouth, and the soles of its feet serving as teeth for the bear.

Iconographic Meaning

Carved to fit the handle of a dagger or knife, this pommel would have enhanced the weapon with distinctive imagery belonging to its owner. Perhaps it represented family histories and crest symbols, its converging figures of bears and human offering a visual metaphor for their transformative powers and interrelationship.


This dagger handle was separated from the dagger at some point in its history. The specific meaning of this assemblage and the history of its Haida or Tlingit ownership are no longer known. This carving itself transformed into a work of pure “sculpture” as it entered the art world through private collections and exhibitions. It was previously in the collection of Gaston T. DeHavenon. It was included in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s 1967 "Arts of the Raven" exhibition, toured widely through the United States and Australia in 1976-1978 as part of the Dominique and John de Menil Collection, was purchased by the donor through a Sotheby's auction in 1998, and was then donated to MOA in 2017.

Item History

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