Located in CB 101.6 (College Avenue campus, 1st floor, outside CB 118)
KillerWhale Mask, c. 1964
23″ x 9″ x 9″
University of Regina President’s Art Collection. Gift of Dr. Morris C. Shumiatcher, O.C., S.O.M., Q.C. and Dr. Jacqui Clay Shumiatcher, S.O.M., C.M., 2017; sc.2017.10
Born on October 16, 1923 in Fort Rupert, BC, Henry Hunt belonged to the Kwakwa̱ka̱’wakw peoples/ Hunt’s Kwak̓wala name was K’ulut’a, which translates to porpoise. In his youth, Hunt trapped and fished, and had the opportunity to experience ceremonial life through storytelling, dancing, and potlatching. He first gained experience carving while working as a faller for logging companies, moving on to building fishing boats and finally, dugout canoes.
Hunt’s early masks were intended for the tourist trade and were made quickly, giving him the liberty to play with positioning of anatomical features. They typically portray animals and mythological beings that Hunt would have learned about during his rich experience with Kwakwaka’wakw ceremonial life. His son, Richard Hunt (b. 1951), is also an artist. He explained the significance of the mask thus:
The Killer whale mask can be used in the Dance of the Animal Kingdom from the Sea or in the Klasala, or Peace Dance. The mask represents someone who has transformed from a human into a killer whale. This is the prerogative of our Chief. The mask is made of red cedar which we use for everything from a baby cradle to a coffin. We, the Kwaguilth, call cedar our Tree of Life. This mask has killer whales for eyebrows and its fins on the cheeks. The mask has a whale attached to its head. The mask was oiled with linseed oil and then smoked by using serpentine and cedar chips. The chips created the smoke and the mask was held over the chips and then rubbed with newspaper.
Some of Henry Hunt’s best-known artworks can be found at the Royal British Columbia Museum’s Thunderbird Park in Victoria. Hunt moved down to Victoria to assist his father-in-law, Mungo Martin, at Thunderbird Park. After Martin’s death, Hunt became master carver. In addition to his work at the park, he carved other totem poles, both large and small. A notable recipient of one of his small presentation poles (approximately 18 inches tall) was Queen Elizabeth II. In 1983, Hunt received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Victoria.