Sisiyutł or double-headed serpent, mostly unpainted wood with painted green, black and red markings above and around eyes and mouth, hinged at the sides
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Sea Serpent

The Sisiyutł is a double-headed serpent with a human head in the center of its body. It can cause death or bring supernatural power to those who see it. In ceremonies, it is usually associated with warrior dances. You can see a Sisiyutł painted on the ferry and carved in the sign that welcomes you to Alert Bay. Can you find the 8 Sisiyutłs in this gallery?

Catalogue Information


Owned by Sam Charlie until its forced surrender to Indian Agent William Halliday on March 25, 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 some of them to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, on long-term loan from the National Museum of Man (now the Canadian Museum of History). They remained in the possession of the ROM until the NMM pulled its loan and returned the pieces to the Nuyumbalees and U'mista cultural societies in 1988. In 1995 Sam Charlie's daughter, Mary Beans (nee Charlie) requested her father's regalia be transferred from Nuyumbalees to U'mista for display.


Wood, Yellow Cedar; Paint; Fibre, Cotton Twine


10.0 cm x 22.5 cm x 40.0 cm

Accession Number


Physical Description

Sisiyutł “Double-Headed Serpent” headdress made of three pieces of yellow cedar that are carved, painted and bound together with cotton twine. The central face and the serpents are missing their horns and only empty pegging holes remain. The central human face is quite wide and has a long mouth baring broad rounded teeth; the serpents also bare rounded broad teeth. The serpents are small in comparison to the human face. The tongues of the serpents are not added on, but are one piece indicating that the side pieces were cut including the tongues in the design. The paint seems to be glossy, probably commercial paint. The colors are black, red and dark green on an unpainted background. The HN 501 number is visible under the front right cheek of the central human face. On the back of the right serpent is the name “Sam Charlie” written in pencil.