Killer Whale Mask of Sam CharlieMaxinuxw "Killer Whale"
Maxinuxw "Killer Whale" Mask
The Kwakwa̱ka̱'wakw believe that killer whales live in a great house, a four day journey out towards the open sea. Killer whale is an important Chief in the undersea world. This powerful being uses porpoises and sea lions as servants and messengers. People who are lucky enough to see its house will receive supernatural power and the right to use the killer whale as their crest. They will also receive the privilege of using the killer whale’s songs and dances.
Chief Henry Speck
Killer Whale Legend
Clan ‘Walas of the Mamalilikala
A long time ago, there were some young boys practicing shooting with their bows and arrows. They were paddling in small dugout canoes, out in front of their village called ‘Mimkwamlis, known as Village Island. Then, they saw at the point, a pod of killer whales playfully swimming by. The whales were surfacing and spraying water from their blowholes.
The young boys looked at the killer whales and started to discuss shooting at the whales to test their shooting abilities. The boys decided the dorsal fin would be the target and this is what they would aim for. One of the boys shot his bow and arrow and hit his mark, wounding one of the whales. This made the whale very sad. Then, the family of whales became very angry and swam towards the children.
The young boys began to paddle quickly in their small canoes and were dragging them up the beach as fast as they could. One of the killer whales caught up and was right behind the boy who had shot the whale. When he reached the beach he tried to jump off the canoe and run up the beach. As he landed on shore so did the whale. At that moment the whale’s dorsal fin turned into a man and caught the boy. The man grabbed him by his Achilles tendons and said to the boy, “As long as you live, you will never be able to walk properly and you will always suffer in pain, from the muscle in your heels being pulled out, for I am, the Killer Whale".
From that day forward the boy and his people respected the killer whales because they were human also, and had the spiritual power to transform. The boy’s clan named ‘Walas then took the crest of the killer whale and painted it on their house fronts, they also composed songs and dances to honor the whale. Still today, the killer whale is respected and regarded as being the same spirit as man.
As told by Henry and Alice Hunt
Killer whale masks are not always easily differentiated from larger whale masks. In most killer whale masks the size of the dorsal fin is usually longer and can be manipulated by a string to have the fin stand straight upwards. Bigger whales such as Gwa’yam "All Large Whales" will have a smaller bent over dorsal fin that are less dramatic. Killer whales usually carry "s" or "z" shape bans on its sides, not oval or circular designs that indicate a larger whale. Killer whales usually have a cut out projecting Nose Bridge that connects to the top lip, whereas the other type will have the nose bridge connected directly to the nostrils and front of the face. Whale masks are worn over the back and strings are controlled under the masks to pull forward the dorsal fin, pectoral fins, tail and mouth. Some masks are rigged to have eagle-down blown out of the blowhole at crucial times during the dance. Most times, killer whale masks appear in the Tła’sala "Peace Dances" as a treasure, but they can also appear in the T̕seka "Red Cedar Bark Ceremonies". The dancer moves slowly around the dance floor diving, breaching and imitating the actions of a killer whale.
The Killer Whale mask in the Potlatch Collection is listed as belonging to:
Sam Charlie UCC-02.05.008