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Bear Doctor's Dagger

Arts of the Americas

MEDIUM Elk antler, hide, plant (milkweed) fiber, twine, pigment
DATES early 20th century
DIMENSIONS 13 1/2 x 2 in. (34.3 x 5.1 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
ACCESSION NUMBER 08.491.8668
CREDIT LINE Museum Expedition 1908, Museum Collection Fund
RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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CAPTION William Benson (Pomo, Native American, 1862-1937). Bear Doctor's Dagger, early 20th century. Elk antler, hide, plant (milkweed) fiber, twine, pigment, 13 1/2 x 2 in. (34.3 x 5.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1908, Museum Collection Fund, 08.491.8668. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 08.491.8668.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 08.491.8668.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION The Pomo bear-doctor and the dagger he carried have left a trail of confusion in scholarly literature. Dr. Hudson, informant to Stewart Culin, Museum’s curator, summarized as follows. Bear men belong to a secret organization with a representative from each tribe. He preyed on the community and if killed another would be elected in his place. The object of the society was to eliminate undesirable people in the tribe. Bear-doctors were said to have carried one or two daggers of this type with the tips sharpened and rubbed on grinding stones.The realistic style of incising, impeccably rendered does indicate artist provenance to William Benson and has been found on other items know to have been made by Benson. Since several of these have been found in Museum collections, all made by Benson, these are clearly "models" made for the non-Native market.
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William Benson (Pomo, Native American, 1862-1937). <em>Bear Doctor's Dagger</em>, early 20th century. Elk antler, hide, plant (milkweed) fiber, twine, pigment, 13 1/2 x 2 in. (34.3 x 5.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1908, Museum Collection Fund, 08.491.8668. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 08.491.8668.jpg)