Dzunuk’wa Mask

Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation “UCC 80.01.41 The giantess Dzunuk’wa is a member of the large family of giants who live in the far away mountains and woods. Black in colour, with bushy, unkempt hair and a pursed mouth through which she utters the cry, Hu! Hu! She was a terrifying and threatening creature. She carries a huge basket on her back in which she put disobedient children she stole, taking them to her home to eat them. However, the children usually outwitted her, as she is vain, stupid and clumsy. In another aspect Dzunuk’wa, is the possessor of the “Water-of-Life”, a gift she would bestow on people fortunate enough to encounter and overcome her. Her most important role is the bringer of wealth and good fortune. In the Winter Ceremonies, Dzunuk’wa appears in two forms. As a dancer in the T’seka, she is a shaggy lumbering creature with half shut eyes. She is not awake enough to dance the normal four circuits around the fire, but staggers in the wrong direction and when escorted to her seat, she falls asleep. In her other role, she carries a basket of coppers that she gives to the Chief who is selling or giving them away. The most important right of the Dzunuk’wa, is when Kwakwaka’wakw Chief’s wear a special form of this creature. At the end of required potlatch obligations to complete a hereditary Chief’s role, the Chief will put on the family’s crest representing a male Dzunukwa mask called Gi’kaml. This mask characterized not by the foolish face with half closed eyes, but a strong and noble face with eyes partially opened. These masks usually include a mustache, eyebrows and locks of human hair, and are very carefully carved, representing family title and hereditary nobility. It is with this mask that hereditary Chief’s donned the Gi’kaml and carried out the intense ceremony of “Copper-Breaking”. As this highly respected and feared creature, Chiefs carried out the ceremony of cutting copper; they usually used a ceremonial knife that is carved also bearing the head of Dzunuk’wa.

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Indigenous Dance