Alaska Native art is becoming more popular, from totem poles to scrimshaw.  Even in downtown New York City there is an Alaska Native Art shop.

Traditional Alaska Native art came from long winters, where their entertainment was making art from inedible parts of animals and part was function- this was the time to make baskets and fish hooks for the spring.  Every part of the animal was used – in the whales the baleen – or filter that the whales use to harvest plankton, was used to weave baskets, or as a thread for tools.  The ivory from the tusks of animals was used to make toys for the children – and the finer a person could carve the more the piece was valued. Even the oosik (the Walrus penis bone) is used.

Today Alaska Native art builds on that tradition – still weaving baskets from baleen, grass, or spruce roots, using whalebones for carving.  The more modern themes for Alaska Native art can transform a mask to a story from the ancient times. An Alaska Native basket could cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Where there is this much money in art, there is a lot of money in forgery, or in imitations.

All along Fourth Avenue in Anchorage are tourist shops that will sell you facsimiles of Alaska Native art, not trying to sell you a forgery, but something close – but there are those shops that specialize in just Alaska Native Arts.  Boreal Traditions in the Captain Cook Hotel, and its sister Northern Legacies in the Hilton Hotel, specialize in both traditional as well as modern, but genuine Alaska Native Art.  While the art is not inexpensive, it is genuine, and some of the top picks of Alaska Native artists.

Here you will find a collection of masks, paintings, sculptures, totems, baskets, and modern interpretations of traditional pieces, as well as some very old pieces. Unique pieces of art celebrating Alaska Native tradition.

Many other shops will have pieces of art – the gift shop at the Alaska Native Medical Center is run by the auxiliary of the hospital, and sells pieces of art – but they only accept cash or checks.  The pieces you find in here are brought by Alaska Natives whose family members are in need of medical care.  There are some amazing pieces here, and if you fall in love with Alaska Native art this is worth the cab ride.  If you arrive in town during the Alaska Federation of Native’s Convention, or during the Eskimo Olympics, Natives will bring their art in from the villages and sell it on the streets or in the restaurants.  Its ok to buy from them- they represent the real art, and will happily tell you the story of their work.