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House Post, from a Set of Four

Arts of the Americas

These two house posts depict the creation story of the Heiltsuk eagle clan and its ancestral homeland, Yálátli (Goose Island): In the beginning of time, many of the world’s inhabitants were animals and supernatural creatures. Some could take off their fur and feathers and assume human form, while others always remained in their supernatural form. One day, a supernatural eagle with a human face and a bird’s beak saw a whale in the water and tried to seize it for food. After a mighty struggle, the eagle flipped the whale over and began to devour it, spilling the whale’s intestines into the water, where they piled up to form Yálátli. The eagle decided to live on the island, becoming human and adopting the name Wigvilhba Wákas (Eagle Nose), which has been passed down through the generations and is today held by Chief Harvey Humchitt.
MEDIUM Cedar wood
DATES 19th century
DIMENSIONS 98 x 35 1/4 x 17 1/2in. (248.9 x 89.5 x 44.5cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
CREDIT LINE Museum Expedition 1911, Museum Collection Fund
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION House post made of cedar wood, dark and unpainted. Two figures: supernatural bird, probably a thunderbird, holds a small humanoid figure to its chest area in front of a shield called a "copper". The Supernatural bird has a beak as well as humanoid ears and mouth. The frontal figures are carefully carved in high relief. The back is roughly carved and relatively flat. Condition: The best of the set of four. (see 11.700.2-.3-.4) There are several cracks that include many large vertical cracks, abrasions, losses, scratches, and surface wear. In some areas the wood is weak due to rot and insect damage. There are iron hooks on the back, top and bottom, evidently from a former mount.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Heiltsuk (Bella Bella). House Post, from a Set of Four, 19th century. Cedar wood, 98 x 35 1/4 x 17 1/2in. (248.9 x 89.5 x 44.5cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1911, Museum Collection Fund, 11.700.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 11.700.1_left_+bw.jpg)
IMAGE 3/4, 11.700.1_left_+bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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