AA 84 - Naxnox mask depicting smallpox

Catalogue Number
AA 84
Object Name
Tsimshian ?
Nisga'a ?
Gitxsan ?
Tsimshian ?
Nisga'a ?
Gitxsan ?
Tsimshian ?
Nisga'a ?
Gitxsan ?
Geocultural Area, Broad
North America
Geocultural Area, Narrow
Northwest Coast
Origin Country
Origin Province / Territory
British Columbia
Artifact History

Some researchers believe that this mask was carved in response to the smallpox epidemics that ravaged BC First Nations people in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Researcher's / Expert's Remarks

Examined by Director of Nisga'a Cultural Centre, Stephanie Halapija on June 12, 2018 who noted that this was constructed in a manner similar to other nax nox masks she has seen from the Nisga'a area, including a red flicker and a raven mask. The movable beak, and large scale, are also found in Nisga'a nax nox masks and she will make inquiries to see if anyone remembers this particular mask. Smallpox stories are common among the Nisga'a who estimate that as much as 80% of their pre-contact population succumbed to introduced diseases.

Reference / Bibliography

Beverly Boissery and Bronwyn Short "Beyond Hope", The DunDurn Group. Toronto, 2003. p 76. Terry Reksten, "The Illustrated History of Britich Columbia". Douglas & McIntyre. Vancouver/Toronto, 2001. p 78.

Physical Description
Carved alder bird mask, depicting Smallpox, attached to wooded harness, steamed and bent; movable lower beak on lever; face of bird is drilled, carved wooden pegs inserted all over; inside beak, copper; nails all around upper edge (to hold cloak or headdress?), brown stain, black and red pigment, red around eyes and beak.
Alder wood, Pigment
Black, Red, Brown
Artifact Part Height (cm) Length (cm) Width (cm) Depth (cm) Diameter (cm) Thickness (cm) Weight
30.48 99.06 77.50
Carved, Drilled, Steamed, Stained
No Donor in Database,