1928-34 large Native Amer. Yupik (Quinhagak?) Basket

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  • Item Category: Ethnic, Folk & Native American Art
  • Source: eBay
  • Sold Date: Mar 30, 2008
  • Channel: Auction House

Early Large Yupik Grass Basket w/ Great Provenance

Superb early Yupik, Quinhagak (?) basket collected by Leigh Edward Robinson. See the Burke Museum database @ /burkemuseum/baskets/artists/studylab.html and click on the word use and go to cooking for identification. You will find this weave on the 5th page. They have a grass table mat of this type of weave. Robinson was an educator in Nome between 1928 and 1934. He moved to Klawock in 1934 and Hoonah in 1941 to 1942. It is most likely that this piece was collected during his stay in Nome. The piece was purchased through Cowan's Auction for the family. The Auction catalogue reads:

This lot was collected by pioneer Alaskan educators Leigh Edward Robinson (1882-1960) and Christine Robinson (1883-1965) and have been lovingly curated by his grandchildren. His personal papers and photographs remain in the possession of the family. Cowan's is pleased to have been entrusted with the sale of these artifacts, collected between 1928-1941. Most of the Eskimo items offered were likely collected during their stay in Nome (1928-1934); the Tlingit lots were collected during their stay in Hoonah (1941-42).

Robinson was born in Cedar Falls, Iowa the son of a contractor, and graduated in 1904 from the Iowa State Teachers College with a Master's of Didactics. Teaching first in Iowa, and later in Montana and Washington State, he joined the U.S. Customs Service, serving first in Seattle and then from 1907-1917 in Blaine, Washington.

As a child, Robinson became intrigued by the work of Sheldon Jackson, a Presbyterian missionary dedicated to the well-being of Native Alaskans. He followed his life-long dream north in 1928 when he accepted the position of Superintendent of Schools for the Seward Peninsula District, and relocated to Nome, living t with Christine and their three children until 1934 when the family moved to Klawock (1934-1940) and Hoonah (1941-42). The family returned to the lower 48 in 1942 when Leigh became the Chief Clerk for the local War Price and Ration Board in Bellingham, Washington.

During his sojourn in Alaska, Leigh's primary role was an educatoe, but he was also chrged with supervising work on federal property, construction of new school buildings, managing reindeer herds, organizing local elections, and helping with the adoptions of native orphans. Christine also taught primary classes during their stay in Nome and Klawock. Her Eskimo name was Analoatuk , "the kind lady."

Both the Robinsons were actively interested in preserving native arts and crafts and organized the Northwest Alaskan Fair, which awarded prizes to students for outstanding work. During his tenure as Superintendent he brought the pioneer ivory carver Norman Lee to the White Mountain Boarding School to teach students traditional carving methods. Howard Rock -- the Eskimo painter and founder of the Tundra Times was also encouraged by Robinson.

This basket is made of grass and I am not sure what the red loops coiling around the rim are made from. This basket measures 10 inches wide x 12 inches long (includes handle) x 2 inches deep. The weave is in excellent condition (1 black stitch missing under the left handle). The red overlooping around the rim shows wear consistent with its age (please supersize photos). The basket size and stark pattern shows very well. This will be a fine addition for a discriminating collector's anyone's collection. Please feel free to email me with any questions you may have.

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