House of Waakas Raven Pole

About this object

History of use

The original name of the pole is not remembered; it was known as the Raven Pole. Originally forming the ceremonial entrance to the bighouse Galuthudala (“protruding above the rest") of ˇXvùsemdaas Waakas, or Hosumdas (“First to drink at the head of the Great River”)–Simon Walkus, Sr. This house-front pole features a supernatural bird with an extraordinarily long beak. It stood as a marker of the history of the family and its rights to particular crests, names, oral traditions, songs, and other properties. When photographed in the Wuikinuxv island village of K̓ítit around 1890, the pole is shown with two carvings stacked on top of one another to provide a support for the heavy beak: an upright grizzly bear at the bottom, and above that a man with hat and beard, his hands in his pockets. After hereditary leader Charles Walkus, the elder brother of Simon Walkus, Sr., passed away in 1913, the pole was re-erected to stand behind his headstone at ’U’bis, across from the village, and so became a memorial pole.


K̓ítit became the single Wuikinuxv community between 1900 and 1935, when survivors of the devastating impacts of disease and conflict moved from other settlements in the area to join together. Further devastation occurred in 1935, when K̓ítit was destroyed by fire. The Raven pole, having been moved two decades earlier, remained standing until, in 1956, it was purchased from the Walkus family by the Totem Pole Preservation Committee and relocated to the University of BC. By that time the formerly brightly painted surface in green, yellow, black, and blue was faded and the lower part of the circular entrance was missing; moreover, the bear carving that had held up the beak was too decayed to be collected, and the carved human figure was no longer to be found. In 2006, the Wuikinuxv Nation completed construction of a new bighouse, the House of Nuakawa, and in 2018 a new version of this pole was raised at the entrance. Roy Vickers was instrumental in replicating the pole, as thanks to the Walkus family for bestowing a great name on him.

Iconographic meaning

Hokhohw is one of the supernatural birds associated with the rituals of the Hamat̕sa Society, which performs during the Kwakwaka'wakw winter ceremonial season. The right to become initiated as a Hamat̕sa dancer is an inherited family privilege accessible to only some Kwakwaka'wakw families. Hokhohw is recognized by a long and pointed beak. The overall carving style of this pole is said to resemble Nuxalk, more than Kwakwaka'wakw, styles.

Physical description

House-frontal pole (cuáxsi), carved in low relief; crescent shaped in cross section. Depicted is a supernatural bird (hokhohw) with an archway opening at its base. The figure has large protruding ears on top; in its body are two eagle heads in profile. A large beak in two pieces extends a long way out from the pole.