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Bark-stripping tool

bet’o k’eetlooge’ “bone knife”
Language: Koyukon (Upper, Central & Lower)

This is fancy. I’ve never seen anything fancy like this. Ah-ha, look at that! It’s shaped like knife.

—Eliza Jones, 2004

Basket makers peel birch bark in the spring or early summer, taking only the outer layer so that the tree will survive. This traditional Koyukon tool for loosening and stripping the bark is a sharpened caribou leg bone, decorated with raven-foot designs; today people use a wooden stick for the job. To make a basket, the artist cuts the stripped bark, applies heat to make it flexible, folds it into shape, and stitches it with spruce or willow root.

Culture: Athabascan
Region: Yukon River, Alaska
Village: Nulato
Object Category: Tools
Dimensions: Length 31cm
Accession Date: 1878
Source: Edward W. Nelson (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E033026