Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ Mask

Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation UCC-93.02.008 This rare mask represents the great Man-Eating-Spirit Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ who possesses the new Hamat’sa or Cannibal-Dancer. The mask displays three mouths within each other bearing a tiny human skull in the centre. The mask also has two smaller bird faces representing Galugadza’yi or Crooked-Beak-of-Heaven who is said to be the wife of Baxbakwalanuksiwe’. The mask is typical of Hamat’sa society regalia as it is adorned with red and un-dyed cedar bark fringe. “It has been speculated that this is a rare form of Hamsam’, however, it lacks in all characteristics of the usual Man-Eating-Bird masks. This mask is listed as belonging to Chief Kwaxalanukwame’ John Drabble, who was from the Dzawada’enuxw of Kingcome Inlet. He is also photographed wearing the mask as well as full cedar bark regalia covering him entirely at the time of the potlatch regalia confiscation in 1922. The mask is also believed to be the actual representation of Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ himself and was used in a special ceremony after the Hi’hamsam’ has retired to the Hamat’sa’s secret room. In this ceremony, Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ appears carrying the headdress of the new initiate in a short circuit around the fire and then disappears into the Hamat’sa’s secret room. This is done in order for the new initiate to receive and don his spiritual gift in the form of a headdress usually from the origin of his family or Hamat’sa story; and then carry out his final taming ceremony. This mask is very unusual and the purpose is unclear, however it clearly belongs to the Hamat’sa society and displays Baxbakwalanuksiwe’, the Man-Eater-from-the-North-End-of-the-World.

This project was made possible with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage through Canadian Culture Online
Native Dance