West Coast Sea Serpant Headdress of Moos Moos TomKwikwasadzi "West Coast"
West Coast Sea Serpent
Certain families among the Kwakwaka’wakw, particularly the ‘Namgis, have received dances from their Nuchahnulth "West Coast Tribes" neighbors on Vancouver Island. These songs, dances, names and various privileges came through marriage as dowry. In Kwakwaka’wakw culture it is prestigious to display rights from various sides of your family, especially if the dances are from another cultural group. These headdresses come from the West Coast through a traditional trade route known as the "Grease Trail". Grease or Eulachon oil was one of the main trade items carried over and through this, many connections were made between the two nations. To create alliances and receive special rights, marriages were arranged and dowries were transferred traveling in both directions.
These headdresses are carved in the West Coast style and are very different from the artwork of the Kwakwaka’wakw; this uniqueness makes these objects rare treasures to the family that own them. All four of these headdresses in the Potlatch Collection are created with the usual structure of West Coast headdress making. They are all, three separate pieces of wood fastened together to create a three-sided headdress.
The headdresses UCC-80.01.030 and UCC-88.06.013 are a set that represent Hay’etłak "Sea Serpents" and are danced together. Each dancer has a long train of red cloth tied to their waste on which money is pinned to represent the scales of the serpents. The money displays the prestige and wealth that the dance represents to the owning family. Women perform this dance and Chiefs of the family hold on to their "tails" as they wind and unwind, revealing the long coiling body of the serpents. The headdresses are painted as a set and have slight variations on each of their opposite sides, this is to give the effect that their faces are changing while they are spinning. The headdresses also have rotating eyes that when manipulated would roll and turn red, displaying supernatural qualities.
Headdress UCC-80.01.015 represents a "Spinning Wolf" that dances on a box drum laid in front of the singers. The dancer is male and spins according to required turns following the beating of the song. In ancient times, when this dance was done outside, it was done on an un-chopped block of wood that had only a small space that allowed for no mistakes in this challenging and very complicated dance. This dance belongs to the scared Nuchahnulth Tłukwana or "Wolf Dances".
The headdress UCC-80.01.024 could possibly represent a supernatural bird-like being called Hi’namix. The headdress has feathers decorating much of the top and back while the mouth can be manipulated to open and close revealing a small bird. The Hi’namix has a small stick attached to the top of the headdress that is greased so that eagle down will stick to it. When the dancer moves about, the down is release and floats to the ground where guests may catch it and receive a gift as payment. This headdress carries all of these qualities and could represent his spirit. This dance is also a part of the Nuchahnulth Tłukwana, which is equivalent to Kwakwaka’wakw Długwala "Wolf Dances".
These West Coast headdresses are highly regarded amongst the family that own them today and have been incorporated into the Kwakwaka’wakw scared T̕seka "Red Cedar Bark Ceremonies".
The West Coast headdresses in the collection are listed as belonging to:
Musmus Tom (Hay’etłak) UCC-80.01.030, UCC-88.06.013
Musmus Tom (Spinning Wolf) UCC-80.01.015
Musmus Tom (Hi’namix) UCC-80.01.024