yadan (Rattle)

About this object

History of use

On the northern coast, certain globular-shaped rattles were used by spiritual practitioners; among the Kwakwaka’wakw, skull-shaped rattles were and are used in the Hamat̕sa ceremony to tame initiates. Presumably this rattle, as well, would have been brought into Kwakwaka’wakw ritual, even carrying special status because of its uniqueness so far from its community of origin.


The rattle was last owned by H. Webb from Kingcome Inlet, so it is listed as a Kwakwaka'wakw rattle, however experts agree that it is a northern style rattle, and was more likely made by a Tlingit or Kaigani Haida carver. When Victoria was established in the 1840s, members of northern Indigenous communities travelled south by canoe for work and trade; the trip required negotiating Kwakwaka’wakw territorial waters, and sometimes a toll to be paid. Such a process, and of course other forms of intertribal trade, battles, and gifting, were a further means by which individual treasures and ideas circulated and changed hands.

Cultural context


Iconographic meaning

This rattle is sculpted and painted to represent a bear on the front, its paws placed directly beneath the head; the back features a supernatural being with components similar to those applied to the fronts of northern bentwood chests.

Physical description

Northern style rattle carved of hardwood, composed of two complementary halves. One half shows a bear face in relief, the other shows supernatural creature imagery. Stitched together with copper wire around rattle, end of handle is wrapped with a small cord. Inside the rattle is likely pebbles, beads or lead shot.