1-800-690-8222 | Alert Bay, BC, Canada 


By Silas Coon Jr.

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Carved by Silas Coon Jr.

13"h. x 8"w. x 7"d. 

The Xwixwi dance originated with the Salish. Among these people it is an important crest worn by spiritualists who have inherited special powers and assist at all life crisis and social situations ­birth, naming, marriage, illness and death - by dancing, in groups of four. According to the myth, the mask’s origin was from under a lake, and it was associated with earthquakes and healing.

The Xwixwi came to the Kwakwaka’wakw from the Coast Salish of Comox as a gift. After deciding to wage war to acquire the dance and mask, they were invited in as guests of the Comox and freely given the dance and the treasure box of associated gear. The dancer wears the mask of this supernatural being and carries rattles strung of scallop shells and the dance is believed to, “shake the ground and be a certain means of bringing back the Hamat̕sa who is being initiated”, (Boas 1897: 497).

Adapted from: “Art of the Kwagu’ł Indians, by Audrey Hawthorn”.

According to the Kwakwaka’wakw, the Xwixwi is the red cod or red snapper. For this reason it has two protruding eyes. When the red cod is pulled out of the water his stomach comes out of his mouth and for this reason the palm of the mask is protruding. When the fish is thrown into the canoe it beats violently with its tail. This is imitated by the scallop shell rattles. It is claimed that the Xwixwi was first seen at Cape Cod and that at the time when the Ligwiłda’xw used to live there.

 “Notes from George Hunt to Franz Boas”.

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