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Canadian & Inuit Sculptures
Sculptures from Native Canadian artists have been found as early as 600 B.C., with early sculptures depicting birds, human faces, and small masks. They are believed to have had a ritualistic purpose of warding off evil spirits. In the Dorset culture, Native Canadian artists sculpted walrus ivory, caribou antler, and soft stones.
The Thule people, who replaced the Dorset around 1000 A.D., favored a more utilitarian sculpture. Much of their sculpture focused on decorating objects such as buttons and harpoons. This changed in the 1500s after Western contact when the Inuit began to trade with Western whalers. Artists began to produce artwork specifically for a more commercial western audience. This change was later reinforced by the Canadian government, which sought to promote native arts as a source of stable income for Inuit communities.
Today, Inuit sculptures are typically carved in soapstone for decorative purposes. Animal materials are still used on occasion, and these sculptures are considered more rare and valuable.
The Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec houses one of the largest collections of Canadian sculptures. Founded in 1856, it is one of North America'’s oldest artistic institutions
The First People's Hall, one of three main installations within the Canadian Museum of History, chronicles 20,000 years of native history
20th-century Inuit sculptor John Pangnark has exhibited pieces worldwide. His sculptures focus on incorporating formal elements of modern geometrical abstraction