January 8, 2016: Nuu-chah-nulth Mask
Wood carving was a highly developed art of the Nootka people of Vancouver Island in British Colombia. Houses, boats, containers, furniture, masks, and decorative objects were made from wood, and even clothing was made from the bark of cedar. The Nootka lived in large, extended families, sharing longhouses that were as large as forty by one-hundred feet and could house up to around thirty-five people. Within the longhouse, family-groups had their own areas and cooking hearths. These familial units would usually move between two or more longhouses in different locations over the course of the year depending on the season’s economy.
Masks made by the Nootka resembled a variety of animals and anthropomorphic faces, and were usually not painted as colorfully as their neighboring Northwest Coast neighbors. Accomplished wood carvers were recognized at potlatches and public events, where their work might be used or displayed. Masks were used in a variety of dances and ceremonies, as well as part of the larger wood sculpting artistic tradition.