tiixwama (Pile Driver)

About this object

History of use

Heavy pile drivers of stone were once commonly used on the central and northern coast to build fish weirs across streams and rivers. This one has been shaped to provide handholds for pounding pointed stakes into the riverbed, using the stone’s wide underside. "There would be in each house a designated name and position for somebody who was designing and building the fish weirs. They had a name and a rank and a dance in the potlatch that would support the job that they did on the land. Items like this pile driver would have crest designs on them because they would be handed down: as the name goes to the next generation, tools like these would go with them" [Clyde Tallio Snxakila, Nuxalk, 2019].


Thought to be from c. 1800, or possibly earlier. Robson, the donor, said it was given to him in April 1920 by a very old (Nuxalk) man named Fred King, after using it to pound King's oolichan-net stakes in the river. King told him that several men (Filip Jacobsen, a Dr. Goddard and Indian Agent Ivor Fougner) had tried to buy it from him in previous years. At some point Robson left it with a friend in Bella Coola, Albert Brynildsen, because he didn’t want to pack it up to Atnarko when he moved there, but Robson got it back from him in 1950 in order to send it down to H.R. MacMillan, so he could pass it along to Harry Hawthorn for the UBC Museum. Harry Hawthorn noted that a very similar one (perhaps the mate of a pair from Bella Coola?), was shown at Scripps College c. 1949-50, from the Arensberg Collection. Hawthorn wrote to Robson in March 1956, sending him a catalogue for an exhibition put on by the Museum and the Vancouver Art Gallery. He said the driver could be found in the catalogue as Plate 38.

Physical description

Heavy stone pile driver, sculpted to fit the user's hands, with grooves on both sides for fingers and thumbs. On one side a nose-shaped ridge has been carved in the middle. Together with the grooves (representing the eyes) this side appears to have a face-like image.