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The U'mista Collections


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*Not all masks are on display in the U'mista Gallery.

Detail of Xisiwe' same as Harry Hanuse Wolves

Detail of Xisiwe' same as Harry Hanuse Wolves
Deatil of Hanuse Wolf

‘Walasaxa / Długwala or Wolf Dances
There are two major types of Wolf Dances, the first and most important being the ‘Walasaxa or Great-Treasure-From-Above. This ancient dance belonged to Kawadilikala, the Wolf Ancestor of the Dzawada’enuxw of Kingcome Inlet. After the Great Flood, an ancestor named U’maxt̕aladła’yi from the Kwagu’ł was out sea otter hunting in the mainland. Thinking there was no one else around, he happened to meet Kawadilikala out on the waters. After this meeting U’maxt̕aladła’yi married the daughter of Kawadilikala and the ‘Walasaxa was given to U’maxt̕aladła’yi as dowry. From that time, various tribes married the descendants of Kawadilikala and the great dance has spread through marriage to other Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw families. The ‘Walasaxa is danced: all the men of the tribe are dressed in blankets and headdresses representing the wolves. They hide behind the dance curtain and when the singers begin their song, the dancers come forth. Two criers are stationed holding staffs and announce the arrival of the wolves with Yi-hi! The dancers appear with their fists held forward, thumbs erect. They proceed around the fire turning only at the front door and then disappearing behind the curtain. They continue this circuit four times and on the fourth, they squat down in front of the singers on hands and knees imitating the motion of wolves, turning their heads looking from side to side. The Długwala or Supernatural-Gift is derived from the initiations of men by wolves. The tradition behind this dance comes from the legendary mink named T̕łisalagi’lakw, and the wolves. The sons of the Chiefs of the wolves were lost in the forest preparing to be initiated. Mink found them and killed the wolf children and obtained their names and positions through killing. He returned wearing the wolf scalps as masks, three times he danced covering his face and his head with his blanket. The fourth time he uncovered it revealing whom he had killed. All the animals tried to kill him but he escaped. Thus he obtained the names and dances of the wolves. The wolf dancer wears a headdress called Xisiwe’ meaning Teeth-Bared-On-Forehead which represents wolf.
“Secret Societies of the Kwagu’ł Indians", by Franz Boas The wolf masks in the collection are listed as belonging to Joseph Speck “Hiłamas‿: UCC-80.01.33, UCC-80.01.122, UCC-80.01.124, UCC-80.01.126.

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