Eagle-Halibut Pole

About this object

History of use

First erected at the village of Kwunwoq (or Gwunwawq), near Angyadae, and later after a flood (c. 1900) it was re-erected at the village of Gitiks. It belonged to the lineage of Laa'i, a chief of the Laxskik clan of the Nisga'a.

Narrative

According to Nisga'a artist Norman Tait, "This pole is a self-portrait of Oyea [or Oyai] - he was the medicine man who carved it and raised it himself. He's wearing a Shaman's bear claw headdress, and he's holding his powers in the box on top."

Cultural context

status; memorial

Iconographic meaning

Crests belong to the family of the person in whose honour the pole was raised. This pole is from the Eagle clan. The beaver on top has a flaming stick in its mouth - a clan crest. There's also a supernatural whale which Oyei adopted as his own crest -- the whale had four faces normally (three here) and came down the Nass River grinning as it swam on its back. The fish with the human coming out of its mouth is a family crest referring to the story of the first man on the Nass River who came from Alaska searching for a new land and was swallowed by a great halibut who later disgorged him on the beach. The medicine man is a self-portrait of the medicine man who carved the pole and the box represents his medicine box. Norman Tait said his grandfather told him the medicine man "... brought himself back to life through his medicine box."

Physical description

Memorial pole, carved in shallow and deep relief. From the top down: dogfish(?), with three human faces on its back; four potlatch rings are superimposed and rest on top of a human head; beaver with a chewing stick; a replacement chief's box, held by a shamanic figure (man underneath the water), on whose chest rests a supernatural halibut. In the mouth of the halibut is a human figure. The figure is wearing a headdress with four horn-like protrusions.