Haietlik or sea serpent mask, painted with geometric designs in a wide range of colours
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Sea Serpent

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Catalogue Information


Owned by Tom Alfred (Moos Moos Tom) until its forced surrender to Indian Agent William Halliday on 25 March, 1922. Halliday later displayed and photographed the seized pieces at the Parish Hall in Alert Bay. After doing an inventory, he crated the items in June, and at the end of September he shipped them to Edward Sapir at the National Museum of Man (now the Canadian Museum of History). They remained the property of the NMM until their repatriation by the U’mista and Nuyumbalees Cultural Societies in 1979.


Wood, Cedar; Paint; Bark, Cedar; Fibre, Cotton; Hair, Horse; Metal, Iron


53.0 cm

Accession Number


Physical Description

Nuu-chah-nulth Haietlik - serpent headdress of slat construction carved from red cedar in three main parts. The shape forms roughly a long open box, with flat sides converging slightly towards the nose of the animal. The back, top and underside are open and the sides are held together by cedar sticks and two shaped pieces which fit around the wearer's head. The back and upper edges are decorated with fretted carving, and the teeth are cut out in the same way. The eye shapes are cut out and have carved eyes inserted. These rotate on two nails and could be manipulated to show the eye open on one side and closed or blank, on the other. Hanging down from the top at the back of the mask is a fringe of shredded cedar bark and bundles of long brown hair. These are tied to the upper bracing stick. Nailed on the underside at the front is a piece of white cloth. Strips of material are also tied to the underside for use in rigging the mask. The mask is painted with geometric designs in a wide range of colours, or rather, shades of colours derived from - black, red, blue, yellow and white. By mixing these colours the painter has obtained reddish-brown, pink and green.