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Ceremonial Wolf Mask

Curated Submission
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
38 x 20 x 28
Materials & techniques
Yellow cedar, paint, bristle; Hand-carving
Silke Kraemer
Delta Museum and Archives Society DE1992.73.6
This mask is carved in the Coast Salish tradition of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. The wolf is a versatile spirit symbolizing family unity, fidelity, cunning, and hunting prowess. In ceremonial dances the wolf represents the spirit of a deceased ancestor who can bestow great skill in hunting on a worthy person. Traditionally dances often took place when Nations or family groupings met to trade goods. Through movement and song, communities shared stories of cherished values and beliefs regarding group identity and origins. To this day, dance remains important at times of community celebration throughout First Nations communities in Canada. 
The continued use of dance and masks associated with celebration also represents the fierce resilience of First Nations communities. In the early 20th century the Canadian government outlawed traditional gatherings such as the potlatch as part of a long and thorough campaign toward restricting Native cultural practices. Through the elders of the communities, the memory of traditional practices and their cultural meaning have been sustained, even supporting a modern revival in some cases. There is now a concerted effort to restore the languages and culture of the Nations to strengthen communities, an effort embodied in the use of traditional carving techniques in this mask from the 1970s. 
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