"Walking through the town you are alert for the unexpected. Almost next door to the cannery, which divides the Indian village from the rest, formerly stood the tall totem I had seen in Stanley Park [Vancouver]. It was attached to the front of a large community house, and the spreading wings of the thunder bird were painted on the facade. The bird's lower jaw was pivoted to open and shut; open it disclosed an aperture, through which not so long ago prisoners were forced to crawl to receive a lethal blow when their heads appeared within the building. At least, so the story goes; historians will probably discredit it, but it presents a whimsical variation of walking the plank, a practice in vogue at that time."
Phillips Wet Paint, n.d.:98
Chief Wakas' House
"The figures on the pole, from the bottom upwards, are: Raven; Bear; Huxwhukw (Cannibal Bird); Nunwakawi (the Wise One); wolf; Killer Whale; Thundermaker. All these figures belonged to the Oowekeeno tribe because Wakas' father came from there; his mother was 'Namgis.
"It was carved by Yukwayu for Wakas about 1899, who was quite old when he carved it. This was the first large totem pole at Alert Bay. Wakas paid 350 white blankets to Yukwayu for his work. This was a large price for those days, the value of a pair of blankets being $3 and when given away these blankets formed a big pile."
Chief Daniel 'Namgis tribe, Cranmer in Barbeau 1950:673
"When I was boy my mother took me to a potlatch in Wakas' house. After the speeches were over the chiefs climbed through a hole and slid down on the lower beak to the ground outside. That Raven vomited all the great chiefs out of the Gukwdzi [Big House]."
Chief Tommy Hunt, Kwagu'
l tribe. Macnair, personal communication, Victoria 1970
"Photographs . . . show how the artist used elements in the painting of 1909, entitled Indian Village, Pacific Coast, Early Morning."
"A notation in a sketchbook situates Bell-Smith on the boat between Vancouver and Victoria on 2 September 1909. It is likely he visited the Kwakiutl village of Alert Bay on this trip. This painting was executed in the artist's Toronto studio later that year."
"It was exhibited once, at the 1910 Ontario Society of Artists' Exhibition in Toronto, with a catalogue price of $250, and was illustrated. Bell-Smith used photographs as an aide-mémoire to this painting."
"Yes, that's Alert Bay for sure. Look at that westcoast [Nuu-chah-nulth] canoe on the beach. The other canoe [by the totem poles] is really haywire. It's got a westcoast bow and a Kwagu'
l stern, and it's got no beam; it would tip over in the water right away."
Chief Tommy Hunt, Kwagu'
l tribe, examining the Bell-Smith paintings in Macnair's office at the BCPM. Macnair, personal communication, Victoria 1966
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