Trap Stakes Tlingit c. 1850-1880 Bone 11-13” Long Trap stakes functioned as trigger elements in deadfall traps and snares. These key elements were important enough to each successful trap that they were made with special care and of a durable material, so that successive generations could make use of their power. The trigger held tension between a heavy weight, poised to fall, and the light support structure that temporarily held it up. When a bear or other prey was drawn to a bait in the trap, they would dislodge the trigger and a heavy weight (usually logs and stones) fell onto them. Trap sticks were made in a traditional form that took advantage of the strength of the bone material, and each was embellished with an identifying sculpture at the top. These images may in some examples display clan crest emblems, as well as depict spirit creatures and the relationship between hunter and prey. The imagery in the top example is very unusual, with much in common with the types of transformational images found in amulets. There appear to be two somewhat overlapping figures defined in the sculpture. The carved mouth opening includes two upper and two lower fang-like teeth, and a round bulge behind the mouth looks like an eye. Above the pierced mouth, however, is a fully sculptured head that may represent a bear. It has a rounded snout, closed mouth, round eyes and laid back, round ears. What appears to be the bear’s neck and shoulder is also the back of the head belonging to the large cut-through mouth. On the rear edge are transverse cuts that define what could be depictions of ribs or vertebrae. The image suggests a bear emerging from its own spirit, fulfilling its cycle through the roles of hunter and prey. The carvings are intended to propitiate the animal or bird spirit they represent, so that they will come to the trap and to offer homage to their lives. This is the same motivation from which grease bowls come to be carved as seals, the providers of the blubber that made the oil served within. It honors the creatures that provide human sustenance and recognizes their sacrifices. In turn, human beings took only what they needed from the creature world, and helped to maintain their habitats by benign interference, building their cultures and civilization at the border of land and sea, taking not that much from either.