Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Galukw'amhl (Mask of the Crooked Beak)

Photo: Paul Macapia

Galukw'amhl (Mask of the Crooked Beak)

ca. 1940

Willie Seaweed (Hilamas)

Kwakwaka'wakw, 'Nak'waxda'xw, Blunden Harbour, 1873 - 1967

Willie Seaweed's crooked-beak mask, or galukw'amhl in Kwakwala language, was made originally as part of a set of hamatsa masks, which are among the most dramatic of Kwakwaka'wakw sculpture. The hamatsa masks are used in the tseyka, or red cedar bark ceremony, and represent the associates of the cannibal spirit Baxwbakwalanukwsiwe'. The masks are worn in a dance by an initiate who personifies the cannibal spirit during a complex ceremony in which the initiate is tamed and pacified, ultimately exhibiting the preferred and honored behavior of a high-ranking person. The privilege and right to become a hamatsa initiate is inherited and is one of the most highly regarded of all tseyka performances. Willie Seaweed created this mask during the time when traditional tseyka dances were banned by the Canadian government. His art, however, continued to flourish, and the dance tradition carried on. Masks such as this crooked beak are still made and used in dances by contemporary Kwakwaka'wakw artists and inheritors of this privilege.
Red cedar, paint, red cedar bark, mahogany plywood, leather, cord
33 7/8 x 11 x 9 1/2 in. (86 x 27.9 x 24.1 cm)
Gift of John H. Hauberg
Provenance: Micheal R. Johnson, Seattle, Washington, until 1973; John H. Hauberg, Seattle, Washington, 1973-1991; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington
Photo: Paul Macapia
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum

Inheriting Privileges

The crooked-beak mask represents one of several supernatural cannibal associates of Baxwbakwalanukwisw', the cannibal spirit, which appear in the form of birdlike masks in the tseka, or red cedar bark ceremony. These hamatsa masks, or hamsam?, are part of the inherited privilege of being a hamatsa initiate. While the hamatsa is the owner of the masks, he or she neither wears them nor performs their dance. Rather, the masks' appearance and the dances in which they are worn pacify and tame the hamatsa initiate, who personifies the cannibal spirit. The high status of the hamatsa initiate and the series of dances performed in the tseka ceremony encouraged commissions and acquisitions of the finest possible masks made by master carvers such as Willie Seaweed and Mungo Martin. The Seattle Art Museum has several examples of hamatsa masks made by known and unknown artists.

Hamatsa Masks in SAM's Collection

Huxwhukw'iwe' (mask of the Huxwhukw), ca. 1910, Mungo Martin (Nakapankam), 91.1.145
Crooked beak mask, ca. 1920, Kwakw<u>a</u>k<u>a</u>'wakw , 96.97


Bill Holm, Professor Emeritus of Art History and Curator Emeritus of Northwest Coast Indian Art at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, describes Willie Seaweed's unique style
Bill Holm talks about potlatch ban


Exhibition HistorySeattle, Washington, Pacific Science Center, Smoky-Top: The Art and Times of Willie Seaweed, September 1983 - February 1984
Published ReferencesThe Spirit Within: Northwest Coast Native Art from the John H. Hauberg Collection, Seattle Art Museum, 1995, pg. 193, 208

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

Learn more about Equity at SAM