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Animated wooden model totem showing mythical Gunas holding a whale - Donald Ellis Gallery

Model Totem Pole

attributed to John Cross (1867-1939)
Haida Gwaii, British Columbia

late 19th/early 20th century

wood, paint

height: 29"

Inventory # N3691



Collected by the anthropologist Marius Barbeau (b.1883  d. 1969) at Prince Rupert British Columbia in 1915 from a second hand dealer Pilipson who had obtained it directly from the Haida

A translated transcription of Barbeau’s notes reads:

“Small totem, carved and painted (about 25” in height) representing Gunas or The Strong Man who holds between his arms a whale, the head below, that he will tear apart. At the base of the totem, the Grizzly with a frog in his mouth. Purchased at Prince Rupert, BC, in 1915, from the second hand dealer Philipson, who had obtained it in his dealings with the savages, from a Haida. One of the best examples of its kind."

Harold Groves Collection, Toronto, ON


Donald Ellis Gallery catalogue, 2011, pg. 64


For a discussion of the Strong Man myth among the Haida and numerous examples of model totem poles based on this theme see: Barbeau, Marius.  Haida Myths Illustrated in Carvings, Bulleting No. 127, Anthropological Series No. 32.  Ottawa: National Museum of Canada, 1953, pages 327-337

For a discussion of the works of John Cross see: Barbeau, Marius.  Haida Carvers in Argillite. Bulletin No. 139, Anthropological Series No. 38.  Ottawa, National Museum of Canada, 1957, pages 123 - 129

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