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ERIC Number: EJ787785
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 16
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0161-6463
To Find a Treasure: The Nuu-chah-nulth Wolf Mask
Kruger, Arnold
American Indian Culture and Research Journal, v27 n3 p71-86 2003
The Wolf Ritual, or Tlukwana, with its associated regalia of masks, dances, costumes, and musical instruments, was a major feature of the Nuu-chah-nulth Winter Ceremonies. In common with other Northwest Coast Native nations, the lives of the Nuu-chah-nulth people were controlled by the seasons, and following a summer and autumn of gathering and preserving the abundant coastal food resources, the settled sacred time of winter began. It was in the winter that Nuu-chah-nulth ceremonial life proceeded. All aspects of life underwent a kind of saturnalian reversal: the tribe moved to its winter village quarters; summer "songs, normal personal names, usual words about wolves, gum chewing, hat wearing, basketry, and mat weaving were prohibited"; and frivolity, joy, and feasting in the ritual life of ceremony were everyone's tasks for the season. There were three distinct Nuu-chah-nulth Wolf masks, corresponding to the three main acts of the Wolf Ritual drama: (1) the Crawling Wolf mask; (2) the Spinning or Whirling Wolf mask; and (3) the Standing or Festival wolf mask. The very word "Tlukwana" can be traced to the Kwakwala root meaning "to find a treasure," and the treasure found was, of course, that mystic, priceless pearl of knowledge of the supernatural: the fruit of the spirit quest and the eternal gift of the returning hero, be it Buddha, Prometheus, or the triumphant Wolf Warrior emerging strong and holy out of the depths of the primal forest. Since first contact with Western European cultures in the late eighteenth century, this sense of their powerful and integrated place in the world has been taken from the Nuu-chah-nulth. The Nuu-chah-nulth are a people who have always seen their best reflected back to them in the sacred circle of the creatures and the spirits of the world. The treasure to be found in the Wolf Ritual might now have changed. In precontact time, it was supernatural power and a deeper connection to the world; today the treasure might simply be that holistic sense of place and power in the world that was lost through conquest. In the rebirth and the dancing of the Tlukwana today, the Nuu-chah-nulth might be reconstructing both their social order and their sense of self. They might be recreating their home. (Contains 6 figures and 56 notes.)
American Indian Studies Center at UCLA. 3220 Campbell Hall, Box 951548, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1548. Tel: 310-825-7315; Fax: 310-206-7060; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Canada