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Small Tlingit maskette worn by shamans and likely representing a young woman with small metal labret in the lower lip

Maskette

Tlingit
Southeast Alaska

ca. 1860–1880

wood, red, black and blue/green pigment, metal

height: 3 ¼"

Inventory # CN3613

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Among the Tlingit, maskettes were an important component in a shaman’s healing practice, representing one of the spirits the shaman called upon to assist in curing the sick. Maskettes were often affixed to the headdresses worn by shamans, that were frequently made of bent splints covered with swanskins, at times with attached eagle tail feathers.

This maskette likely represents the spirit of a young woman as evidenced by the small metal labret, or lip plug, inserted in the lower lip. Whatever the precise meaning of the image represented, this diminutive sculpture has all the force and presence of a full size face mask.