Native Alaskan Woman with Berry Basket Doll—by Annie Hurlbut
Wild berries are a cherished and nutritional food for some Native Alaskan people, and harvesting them is an important yearly ritual. This Woman with Berry Basket Doll by Annie Hurlbut underlines the cultural significance of both gathering berries and making baskets.
Annie used calfskin (commercially obtained) for the face and boots of the doll. Wolf and sea otter fur surround the doll’s face. For the headscarf and kuspuk (the garment that Native Alaskan women wear to protect their fur parkas), the artist has used flowered print fabric. The expressive eyes and mouth are beaded. Annie used beach grass to make the basket and beads to symbolize the picked berries.
The scraps of animal fur or skin used in the doll are from animals that are legally harvested or “caught” by the Alaska Native hunters to use for food and handicraft. Except for the machine sewing on the kuspuk, all stitching is by hand.
Early in her life, Annie Hurlbut learned sewing from her mother Cotilda Stone and her mother’s sister Rosalie Paniyak. These skills helped tremendously when at age 21 Annie began making dolls and traditional grass baskets. Annie now lives in Juneau.
We obtained this and others of our Native Alaskan dolls through the assistance of the Anchorage Museum. The doll is 11 ½ in. tall in its standing pose and may require leaning against a back support when displayed.
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