Papier mache hat made in the form of the Killer Whale hat repatriated to the Dakl'aweidi clan in 2005 (catalog number E2300630). The hat is molded on an inverted Easter basket to fit on the head and has four black, leather ties. The whale has a red mouth, red nostrils, a face in the back, and decorations along the sides. There is a long dorsal fin with another face on either side and long, black hair inserted through holes in the back edge of the dorsal fin. The eyes are made of abalone, and there are smaller abalone circles along the side, at the edge of the dorsal fin and along the mouth as teeth. One of the holes is missing hair and one of the abalone circles along the edge of the dorsal fin is missing. "Tony" is written on the inside of the hat.
Notes from Eric Hollinger's 8/22/2016 Interview with DeAsis Family about the three papier-mâché killer whale hats:
The family indicated they were interested in donating the hats to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, so Eric Hollinger met with them at their home in Juneau, Alaska, to learn about the history of the hats and pick them up. Eric met with Leroy Deasis, Armando, DeAsis, Antonio DeAsis, Joshua DeAsis and Harold Jacobs, and Joshua asked questions of Lorraine DeAsis by text during the visit.The family was asked what they recalled as their reasons for making the hats, how they were made and how they were used.
Reasons for Making the Hats:
The family was living in Seattle at the time the hats were made in 2006. At the time, Armando was 9 years old, Antonio was 8 years old and Joshua was 5 years old. The boys first danced with the hats as part of dance group in Seattle before dancing with them in Tlingit Celebration in Juneau in 2006. Armando remembered being shown how to dance with the hats when his Mom, Lorraine, showed the boys how to dance with them by dancing in a circle in their kitchen. Leroy noted that Tlingit culture is based on doing things properly and not offending your opposites. Leroy said the hats were made to continue to involve the boys in the culture. He said, it was “important to let the kids know where they were from since they were away from Alaska.” He noted that, in Seattle, they needed more regalia. Armando noted that they wanted something that could be damaged and was intended to be able to be put at risk.
Lorraine says they made the hats in 2006. She asked Uncle Danny what designs could be used but did not ask permission to make the hats. He suggested the Killer Whale hat form and they settled on the image of the Killer Whale hat illustrated in the water color in Swanton’s 1908 publication.
According to texts from Lorraine to Joshua, “It was so you guys could learn as much as you could about the culture. Same reason we joined Tiny’s dance group. We never imagined you would ever see the real hat or Chilkat blankets.” She went on to note, “the boys would dance with the hats to enter for the Killer Whale songs. Made the hats and some paddles to dance with Tiny’s group.” Lorraine wrote, “it was very difficult to teach kids the culture when we lived in Seattle.”
According to the boys, they performed in 50 or more dances per year, almost every weekend with the dance group in Seattle. “It’s like training wheels for dancing real at.oow.” Joshua said. They were being trained for dancing and caring for the hats without realizing what they were being prepared for. It was only after dancing the 3D replica of the Killer Whale hat made by the Smithsonian that he realized the significance of the killer whale hats and the history behind them. Until then, to Joshua, the dance performances, including Celebration, were just another “gig.” Josh remembered dancing in Celebration and people taking photos of them and then seeing their photos in the paper Juneau Empire in 2006. According to Lorraine, Beth Garcia took the photo of the boys in the hats at Celebration.
The original hat upon which the DeAsis family replicas were made [catalog number E230063] was repatriated to the clan in 2005. It was displayed briefly at the Clan Conference in 2006 and was transferred to the new caretaker of the clan’s at.oow in 2007 at the koo.eex for Mark Jacobs, Jr. At that memorial, Armando DeAsis danced the original hat for the first time in more than 100 years at a potlatch. After that time, the DeAsis brothers have been regularly called upon to dance the original hat in many different contexts.
Joshua noted that he never thought of the significance of dancing the original until he danced in the replica hat made by the Smithsonian at the Clan Conference in 2012. He did not see the original as different from other regalia until he danced with the replica. Dancing the replica made Joshua realize the importance of the original. It struck him that the Smithsonian was interested in using 3D technology to remake a hat that was part of his own history. They had already made their own 3D replicas of the original years earlier. Joshua thought making the papier-mâché hats was the same as making vests and blankets and other regalia. He assumed everybody made their own hats. Until Joshua saw the 3D replica made by the Smithsonian he did not recognize their paper hats as replicas.
Armando recalled how learning with the paper hats was so much lighter. He remembered the first time he danced with a wooden hat and how much heavier they were.
Making the Hats:
Lorraine did most of the work making the hats but all three boys helped work on them. Each boy worked on their own hat. Joshua remembers Lorraine helped him paint his hat. They recalled the hats were made in steps. Styrofoam was cut in the shape of the head first. Leroy DeAsis was a carpenter and had the tools that allowed the cutting of the foam. Armando remembers testing out different things to fit on their heads for the interior of the hats. He recalled they tried a bowl and a baseball cap but neither of them worked. They then settled on the use of baskets for the interior of the hats. Armando remembered going to store with his mother and trying out different size baskets to see what fitted. Leroy noted that they made them shortly after Easter and they used the kids’ Easter baskets at the interior frame of the hats. Joshua’s hat has a foam spacer inside the basket because his head was too small for his basket. The name of each boy is written on the basket inside each hat.
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- Made in
- Seattle, Washington, USA
- Holding Institution
- National Museum of Natural History