Beau Dick (Kwakwaka’wakw)
Red cedar, pigment and horse hair
28″ x 28″ x 16″
This original Beau Dick mask represents an ancestor of Beau’s who is sometimes referred to as Yaksim Bigwanum. The mask is one of many in Beau’s family’s box of treasures. In Northwest Coast culture a box of treasures is both a material and immaterial object. In a physical sense it holds the masks and regalia necessary for ceremonial/potlatch performances. The immaterial Box holds the rites to perform those ceremonies and all claims to the history and hereditary ownership embodied in these stories. One’s family history is very important in Northwest Coast Native culture as it is part of your ranking in a highly stratified society. When marriages were arranged these histories became part of the wealth each individual brings to the union. Through this process stories did not stay stagnant but evolved to accommodate present records which would then become history. Stories also moved and different versions occurred both within a group and other contact groups. Therefore one might see a similar mask and hear a similar story from groups that are not culturally related. Beau Dick’s portrait mask is used when a dancer is performing the part of his ancestor Yaksim Bigwanum. In particular, the part of Yaksim Bigwanum’s adventure into the spirit world where he falls from heaven or the sky world and into the undersea world. In the Undersea world he encounters Kumugwe, the chief of the Undersea. This next part of his adventure is performed with other masks representing different characters and incarnations of Yaksim Bigwanum himself.