Wolf bone breastplate featured at Carson’s Antique Gallery of the West, in Wickenburg, AZ.

"The Hunter" ("Bamadialid" in Abenaki language)

by Don Standing Bear Forest (Sou'West Nova Metis; Canada; Mi'kmaq; Abenaki; Huron)

This traditional breastplate is fashioned from the bone, claw, and hide of the Alaska Timber Wolf, brass beads, abalone shell, and traditional brain-tanned hide of the Alaska moose.

In the frozen north, the survival of the wolf and moose are closely linked. Creator endowed the majestic moose with the strength and courage; and the wolf with intelligence and teamwork. Without the wolf, the moose’s only natural predator, the moose would overpopulate his environment. Without the moose, the wolf would struggle for enough food to survive. Both creatures provide much inspiration for artistic expression, and speak of the goodness, provision, and beauty of the Creator. Don Standing Bear chose to utilize both the wolf and moose in this work of artistic expression.

The story of the creation of this unique traditional men’s breastplate began as Don was inspired to fashion a breastplate which was as traditional as possible, utilizing indigenous resources. He obtained the bones, claws, fur, and hides from local hunters, trappers, and tanners, who knew that Don would waste nothing, in accordance with his Native traditions. Don had noticed that wolf foot bones would be the right size for the Hairpipe of a breastplate, and he had carved wolf figures from moose bone before. Don had always admired the intelligence and hunting prowess of wolves, and indeed was a hunter of moose himself, as in the custom of many Alaskans. He also observed wolves in the wilds of Alaska, while driving his team of sled dogs.

Don began collecting materials, obtaining the wolf legs from his trapper and tannery friends. He dissected the legs from the wolf carcasses, removed the flesh, and boiled the bones for ten hours, after which he separated the bones and scraped them clean. Don then boiled the individual toe, foot, and knuckle bones for another ten hours. Next, Don soaked the bones in a concentrated hydrogen peroxide solution for up to 24 hours (depending on the bone size and coloration), to disinfect them. Then he rinsed them in hot water for an hour, and placed them in direct sunlight for eight hours. Don then sorted them by size and let them dry. Don processed the moose leg bone which he utilized to carve the running wolf pendant, in much the same way as he had prepared the wolf bones.

According to Native tradition, the true Hunter believes that the prey gives itself to him, so in the spirit of creativity, Don believes that the remains of these animals have come to him for a purpose, and in all respect, gives thanks to the Creator for all His inspiration and materials.

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