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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 105 3/4 x 32 3/4 x 21in. (268.6 x 83.2 x 53.3cm)  (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 include a large humanoid figure holding a small humanoid figure. The small figure is held in front of the larger figure's chest area. Each head has carved brows, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. There is also a small humanoid head with carved features between the knees of the larger figure. Frontal figures and head are carved in high relief. Back is roughly carved and relatively flat. House post is fragile. There are cracks throughout. There are exceptional losses of wood on and behind small head at bottom. There are miscellaneous holes, especially on the nose of the larger figure. Missing parts include a portion of the left hand and upper lip of the large figure as well as the left foot of the small figure. The back of larger figure's head is hollowed out. The post is very fibrous along the edge of the bottom. This house post is from a set of four (see 11.700.1-.2-.3).
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Heiltsuk (Bella Bella). House Post, from a Set of Four, 19th century. Cedar wood, 105 3/4 x 32 3/4 x 21in. (268.6 x 83.2 x 53.3cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Expedition 1911, Museum Collection Fund, 11.700.4. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 11.700.4_acetate_bw.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 11.700.4_acetate_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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