The T.L. Brevig Collection

The Reverend Tollef L. Brevig Collection of Inupiaq Material Culture

Rev. Tollef Larson Brevig worked as a missionary and teacher to the Inupiaq (or Inuit) people in the area of Teller, Alaska for nearly 23 years. He was born in 1857 in Norway and immigrated to America ten years later. Brevig attended Luther College from 1872 to 1876. After graduation he worked as a schoolteacher until 1891, when he was ordained as a pastor in the Lutheran Church.

In 1894, Brevig was commissioned by the U.S. government to move to Teller, Alaska, 60 miles north of Nome on the Seward Peninsula. He was to serve as minister to the Inuit, as well as a group of Norwegian Lapplanders (Saami) commissioned and relocated by the Federal Government, to teach the Inuit how to herd caribou. One condition the Saami people had was that a Lutheran minister be provided for their religious needs. Brevig, along with his wife and children, founded the Teller Mission and stayed with the Inupiaq long after the Saami had returned to Norway.

T.L. Brevig was known to the Inupiaq as Apaurak, or "father of all." He learned to speak their language and became a member of their community where he served numerous positions including schoolteacher, doctor, postmaster, and harbormaster. He worked to improve the social welfare of the Inupiaq people and developed great respect for them. Brevig left his mission in 1917, having acquired over 100 objects representative of the everyday lives of the people he served. His collection includes skin pouches, hunting and fishing equipment, carved ivory, wooden boxes, soapstone lamps, and a variety of ritual and decorative objects. The objects pictured on this page represent only a small portion of the Brevig Collection.

View the Alaska objects in our online object catalog.