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Virtual Musem of Canada
The Story of the Masks
Introductions The Potlatch The Masks Site Index
Click to see the T'seka Animal Masks Click to see the T'seka Mythical Creature Masks Click to see the T'lasala Animal Masks Click to see the T'lasala Mythical Creature Masks
T'seka Creature Masks
Gikaml - Chief's Dzunuk'wa Mask
Kukwadisilagaml - Listener Mask
Bakwasaml - Wild Man Mask
Dalalagaml - Laugher Mask
Dzunukwaml - Wild Woman Mask
'Nala - Weather
Huxwhukw - Long Beak Cannibal Bird
Galukwaml - Crooked Beak Cannibal Bird
Nulamalagaml - Fool Dancer Mask
Sisiyutl - Sea Serpent

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Galukwaml - Crooked Beak Cannibal Bird
The Huxwhukw and Gwaxwam, the man-eating raven, are supernatural birds and are the servants of Baxwbakwalanuksiw the Cannibal-at-the-North-end-of-the-World. The Huxwhukw uses its long, snapping beak to crack open the skulls of men to eat their brains or to pluck out their eyeballs. If you hear the loud snapping beak of the Huxwhukw look out because Gwaxwam, Galukwam, and Baxwbakwalanuksiw are almost surely nearby too! As part of the bride's dowry, the hamsamala are prized possessions to be passed on to her husband's family. 

Dance and Regalia:
The regalia of the Huxwhukw dancer must conform to strict elements of form and is trimmed with shredded cedar bark. This mask is hinged so that the beak can be snapped closed with a string pulled by the dancer from under the cedar bark trim. A harness tied around the dancer's chest supports the mask. The dancer sits at each corner of the Gukwdzi earthen floor with his legs spread out in front of the mask. Then, the mask looks back and forth four times, tilting his head as the mask moves and quivers on top of the dancers head. Then the dancer shakes his head and may get up on one knee. He snaps the beak of the bird and says, hap! hap! hap! hap! You can tell when the dancer will sit because of the way the drum beats. It would be a very serious mistake to let the masks collide with one another while you are dancing the hamsamala . The hamsamala is a very serious dance. After the hamat'sa dancer has been partly tamed, the hamsam emerge one at a time. After first dancing upright, the dancer squats and jumps back and forth in front of the fire. Then, sitting on the ground, he swings the beak close to the floor and lifts it in long, sweeping motions, snapping the beak rapidly and shouting the dramatic cry of that particular hamsam. After he rises and dances to the next station on the floor, another bird emerges and they dance facing each other across the fire, snapping their beaks and repeating the original steps of the first hamsam. Up to four dancers can perform at a time.

Other:
Hamsamala song, from the Awiinuxw:
1. The forehead-eating mask is going to come and dance all over, the Hamsam is going to dance everywhere; this is your real Hamsam, it is great.
2. The Great-Crane-Like-Bird is going to come and dance all over, the Huxwhukw is going to dance everywhere; this is your real Hamsam, it is wonderful.
3. The Powerful Galukwam, Crooked-Beak-of-Heaven is going to come and dance all over, the Galukwam, is going to dance everywhere; this is your real Hamsam, its unequalled.
4. The Gwaxwam is going to come and dance all over, the Gwaxwam is going to dance everywhere; this is your real Hamsam, its real.

Mask's Story:
This mask was originally owned by Abraham. The mask was surrendered after the potlatch trials and ended up at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and was returned to the U'mista Cultural Centre in 1979.
Galukwaml - Crooked Beak Cannibal Bird (large version)
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Watch Bill Cranmer talk about the Hamsaml ceremony.
Watch Bill Cranmer talk about the Hamsam ceremony (select player below).

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