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The Story of the Masks
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T'seka Animal Masks
Daxdaxalulaml - Owl Mask
Xisiwe' - Wolf
Nangaml - Grizzly Mask

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Xisiwe' - Wolf
(The Kwa„wala word for the living wolf is u'ligan)

Wolves are the ancestors of the Dzawada'enux of Kingcome Inlet and the Haxwa'mis of Wakeman Sound. In an account of their history, wolf survived the great flood by climbing to the top of the large mountain named Having-Phosphorescence. Wolf howling originated when the Dzawada'enux called out to the world to see if any other people had survived along with them. The Gusgimukw answered their call and after that the wolves changed into men and became their ancestors.

Legend:
Here is one version of the story of how the Wolf Dance came to be used among the Kwakwaka'wakw. At first, it was used only at Gwa'yi or Kingcome Inlet. Now many families have the right to perform this dance.

At the beginning of the world, a bird flew down from the sky and sat on the beach near Tsaxis (Fort Rupert). The bird took off its mask and became a man. His name was 'Namugwis, and he became the founder of an important family of the Kwagu‡.

One day this Chief and his son decided to make a boat so that they could hunt the seals and sea otters. So, they shaped and hollowed out a cedar log, they could now travel to other islands and places that they were not able to visit before. They traveled everywhere and met the First Peoples of all of the Kwa„wala speaking groups.

The son of 'Namugwis decided to go on his first hunting trip alone. He had such skill and luck that he came back with a canoe full of game. His father held a feast to give him a new name, a hunter's name. Many Chiefs and their families were invited to witness the event. At the feast the father gave a speech, and ever since our ceremonies have included speeches.

The son went hunting at the mouth of Knight Inlet. Here he met a young man with whom he traded canoes as a sign of trust. The stranger invited him to his house, and they decided that the young hunter should marry his new friend's daughter. As a wedding gift, the Chief's son would be given the Wolf Dance with its 40 songs, which had previously been performed only by the Dzawada'enux of Kingcome Inlet.

Dance and Regalia:
The dancer wears a button blanket and apron along with the wolf headpiece - a forehead mask. As the dancer comes out, attendants shout "Yihiiiiii!" several times. The singers strike the drum log hard with their batons, then clatter them as they answer, Yiiiii. From behind the curtain the wolf pack runs single file behind the leader, then turns to the left and dips to either side with hands made into fists and thumbs up. Sometimes the dancers just walk out and line up in front of the singers facing the back of the Big House until the attendants have stopped shouting Yihiiii. Sometimes the dancers circle the fire as they come out, and then they line up in front of the singers.

When the attendants have stopped shouting, the drums tsaxa‡a and the dancers crouch facing the fire and scan slowly from side to side, nodding at either side. Once the singing starts, the dancers stand in place and bounce with the thumbs up. The attendants say "Yihiiiii!" again, the drums tsaxa‡a, and the last person to have come out leads around in a circle to the left, around the fire, and goes out the door to the right of the singers. And, that is the end.

Song:
Yi'hiiii, yi'hiiii It is said you have magical powers, supernatural one, e'he.

Yi'hiiiiiii
You alone have magical powers, supernatural one, e'he.

Yi'hiiiiii
Your name is rumoured among the wolves, supernatural one, a'ye.

Yi'hiiiiii
Your name is boasted among the wolves, supernatural one, a'ye.

Yi'hiiiiii
Your name is wide spread among the wolves, supernatural one, a'ye.

Yi'hiiiiii

The singers shout, beat fast time and the wolves pivot as they slip behind the screen.

Xisi'ala of T'sesti'ela 'Wa'kas, Dzawada'enux of Kingcome Inlet
They are going forward making their magical sound, they are warming up their voices to do their great howl, those supernatural creatures, the wolves. They are truly making their wonderful howling; it is the great wolf dance, this supernatural gift.

Mask's Story:
This xisiwe' originally belonged to Joseph Speck. It was surrendered in 1922 and sent to the Canadian Museum of Civilization and was returned to the U'mista Cultural Centre in 1979.
Xisiwe' - Wolf (large version)
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Watch Pauline Alfred talk about Xisiwe'.
Watch Pauline Alfred talk about Xisiwe' (select player below).

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Watch Stan Wamis talk about Xisiwe'.
Watch Stan Wamis talk about Xisiwe' (select player below).

This clip is 2:00 long.
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