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This information was automatically generated from data provided by MOA: University of British Columbia. It has been standardized to aid in finding and grouping information within the RRN. Accuracy and meaning should be verified from the Data Source tab.


Carved and painted wooden walking stick. Broken into two pieces - top portion (part a) and lower portion (part b). The grip is bulbous, and extends down into a carved shaft. The figures from top to bottom - killer whale (dorsal fin goes up, forehead, pectoral fin), upside-down eagle (wing comes out, feathers fold over the other feathers), bear, wolf, human head, small animal (bird?) which is being consumed by a sea or snake-like creature, whose scaled body extends down to the tip of the cane.

History Of Use

In both new and ancient visual forms, crest images survived colonial efforts to oppress Indigenous values and social structures. This cane was made in the late 1800s, a time of profound social change in the region. Many artists and other community members were then creating new ways to express their position within Indigenous forms of governance and cultural practice, without being persecuted by church or state. While such a cane may have been perceived by colonial administrators as a decorative, non-ceremonial item influenced by European walking sticks, it could have actually functioned both artistically and subversively, helping to transmit Indigenous teachings within and beyond the community.


Bear that has the man by the head could be a rival chief that he destroyed. Other figures include one biting the tail of a wolf, a little bird and snake-like creature below. Top crests are significant, bottom figures are supposed to be ancestors. Killer whale and upside-down eagle battling it out is a well-known story [Ian ńusí Reid – Heiltsuk, Hiłamas, William Wasden, Jr. - ’Namgis (Kwakwaka’wakw), 2019].


Little is known about this particular cane, which was in the private collection of a non-indigenous family for almost a hundred years, circulating among family members in different locations in the United States and Canada. When the family decided to donate the cane to MOA so that it could be available for study, visiting artists were intrigued by its stylistic qualities and how its imagery connects to crests and stories. Was it created by a Heiltsuk, Haisla, or Wuikinuxv artist? Shared characteristics of style among these First Nations suggests it originated and functioned on the central coast.

Item History

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