Hunter with Frogman mask by Alex Dickson, Tlingit carver, Teslin, Yukon, 2004

Carved and painted wooden mask with long black hair. Human face with frog sitting on top of head with legs wrapped around. Painted black, red and light green. Abalone irises.

Masks in the Yukon have been fairly rare. They were in large restricted to First Nations with close coastal ties such as the Inland Tlingit, Tagish, Tahltan and the Southern Tutchone. When masks were used by Yukon First Nations, it was limited to shamanic use and potlatch ceremonies, and even then, the masks were restricted to only very important people. One suggestion for the lack of old Yukon masks (pre-1900s) is that wood masks would have been bulky and impractical to carry in a semi-nomadic society. Therefore, it has been suggested that hide or bark masks may have been used for shamanic practice. However, evidence and elders have overwhelmingly specified makeup and to a lesser extent tattooing as the main method of facial dress.

The carver of this mask, Alex Dickson, learned to carve Tlingit style masks as a way to reconnect with his past. He was taught by Keith Wolfe Smarch, a carver of Inland Tlingit decent. Dickson, also of Inland Tlingit decent, started to carve around 1988 and soon mastered the technique of his teacher. He now teaches and carves in Whitehorse. His subject matter is chosen from stories and dreams, and shows the bond Inland Tlingit had with the land. This particular mask represents the story of the hunter with frogman. He uses the many stories and legends the elders of his community passed down to him when he was young. Alex Dickson continues to have a successful career with his pieces collected throughout the world. Both Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Russian President Vladamir Putin have received masks by Dickson as gifts from the Yukon government.

Skookum Jim, the man that discovered gold in 1986, causing the Klondike Gold Rush also had a frog spirit helper. Skookum Jim was walking along a beach when he saw a frog, his spirit helper. It was the wealth woman. She pointed to the water and told him to follow her walking stick. He didn't know what that meant at the time. Soon after he found the gold. Skookum Jim's frog helper is an important but lesser known element to the folklore surrounding the gold discovery.


George Johnston Museum, Teslin

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