Supernatural and mystical, Sisiutl is a double headed Sea Serpent, and one of the highest ranking crests of Kwakwaka’wakw society. It is dangerous to cross paths with Sisiutl, as touching or looking at him can cause instant death. It is said that those who tempt the wrath of Sisiutl will be washed in their own blood, though legend suggests Medicine Men once tried to kill the Sisiutl for his magic and healing powers. Sisiutl is psychic and can foretell the future, and he also has the ability to see backwards and forwards at the same time – making him a challenge to conquer. Sisiutl can transform himself into a human at any time, and due to his characteristics as a pertinacious protector of the supernatural kingdoms he guards, he is affiliated with war and death.
A beautiful Sisiutl guards the village of ‘Yalis (Alert Bay), erected at the ferry where the majority of visitors arrive. His purpose is to protect the village and his people, much as warriors would often wear a headband with an image of Sisiutl, and travel in canoes that had Sisiutl painted along the sides to protect them from harm.
Depicted with a large face, sharp teeth and curled tongue, Sisiutl’s head controls the symmetrical appendages on the left and right, which each have a wolf-like head. Sisiutl is sometimes depicted as a long straight creature with the wolf-like heads gazing in opposite directions, and other times with the left and right appendages curving upward above the head, reaching towards the center where the two heads face one another.
Campbell River Museum & Archives
Conversations with 'Namgis Seaweed Family
Conversations with Musgamagw Dzawada'enuxw Artist Jackson Roberston
Carved by Vincent Shaughnessy and danced by Don Alfred in the Alert Bay Bighouse in May 2004, this piece is special, despite being rough around the edges. It was crafted from three pieces that were nailed together roughly, and fit with ugly (but comfortable) green foam.
This headdress is adorned with lynx fur, and metalic stud decorations that flash in the light. Part of the joy of watching dances in the Big House is witnessing the animal kingdom as it comes to life - and the metalic pieces on this piece have that effect, due to the way they reflect light from the fire at certain angles.
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