The Sky World
The Sky World plays a very significant role in the life and legend of Northwest Coast peoples and this is reflected in the forms that masks take. The Nuxalk place significant emphasis on the importance of the Sky World and have elaborate mythology surrounding it. They believe that the sun is a supreme deity and resides in a great house known as Nusmata (“the origin place of myths and legends”). In the mythic past the sun sent four supernatural carpenters to the earth to create human life, and the Nuxalk have many masks that represent the ancestral sun.
Below the Sun, the skies are inhabited by many birds, the most well-known of these birds throughout the coast is the Thunderbird. A giant mythical bird that is said to emit lightning from its eyes, and produce thunder by flapping its wings. The Kwakwaka’wakw depict numerous supernatural birds that live in the Sky World, including Baxwbakwalanuxsiwe’ (Cannibal-at-North-End-of-the-World) and its attendants Huxwhukw, the supernatural Raven, and the Crooked-Beak. Many of these masks, including those made by Willie Seaweed, Mungo Martin, and Beau Dick, are still danced in ceremonies and/or displayed in museum collections.