House Posts (RBCM 14680, 14681)

Two house posts standing in foliage.

Wilson Duff, curator at the provincial musuem, collected the posts. He took this photograph of them still standing a Gwa'yasdams in 1955. PN 2180.

Face-on view of two house posts standing in foliage.

The house posts at Gwa'yasdams in 1955. Wilson Duff photograph, PN 2178.

Inside of a partially finished house frame with two carved house posts supporting two roof beams.

This Charles F. Newcombe 1900 photograph of a house in Gwa'yasdams shows the typical structure of Kwakwaka’wakw big houses, including the placement and function of house posts. PN 241.

Pencil drawing and dimensions of two carved house posts by John Smyly.

One of the house posts from Gilford Island is on the left in this drawing by museum technician John Smyly.

This pair of house posts stood at the back of a partly constructed house in the village of Gwa'yasdams on Gilford Island. The house was begun in 1935 but was never finished because the owner, John Nelson, died in 1937. Herbert Johnson is said to have carved the posts. The top figure depicts a chief holding a Copper, a symbol of wealth. The image at the bottom represents Sisiyutł, a supernatural double-headed serpent. The house posts attest to the continuation of Kwakwaka’wakw artistic and cultural traditions during the period (1884–1951) when the potlatch and other Indigenous gatherings were illegal in Canada.

Both house posts were purchased by the museum in 1955. One of them (RBCM 14681) is in the First Peoples gallery; the other (RBCM 14680) is behind glass at the museum’s east entrance.

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