Eire clay pipe found in Eskimo Alaska

Contributed by Tom Lowenstein

Eire clay pipe found in Eskimo Alaska

I was sitting last July with an Inupiaq (Eskimo) friend in the deserted village site of Point Hope, Alaska, while he searched for trade beads in a spot where he had found a British naval button,probably from HMS Blossom which was here August 1826. I was there to introduce my book 'Ultimate Americans' about contact between Inupiaqs and Euro-Americans. Suddenly from among bird bones in the grass and wild flowers I picked an intact clay pipe made in Glasgow in 1898 for the centenary of the Wolfe Tone rising of 1798. There was one Irishman in PH in 1898: James O'Hare from Galway and presumably his relatives had sent him this pipe. Unlike most whites who lived 5 miles down coast at a trading station, O'Hare ['Yiiguraq' or 'Big Mouth Jim')lived in the village where he worked for the missionary John Driggs. Jim was drowned in a boating accident before he could smoke this pipe which my friend had excavated a week before I found it. While people are still finding 2K-year-old ivories, contact artefacts like this are unheard of. How, in countless millions of acres of tundra, this perfect and personalised relic of an intense period of native/colonial history came to my hand, remains a wonder.

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Point Hope, Alaska. Irish pipe




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