Transformation is at the heart of Haida art and supernatural power. Supernatural beings and ancestors possessing special powers are often depicted with the attributes of two or more beings, indicating their ability to transcend ordinary limitations.

Dogfish Woman is another powerful figure in the pantheon of beings of the sea. The dogfish is a small variety of shark that inhabits the waters of Haida Gwaii. Dogfish Woman is a crest belonging to many of the Haida clans, and is related to a story of a woman ancestor who could transform herself into a dogfish. It is in this form that she enters into a whole other realm of experience, the undersea world.

The gills on her cheeks and her domed forehead identify her as a dogfish. The labret in her lower lip, made from inlaid abalone shell, distinguishes her as a high-ranking woman. Pectoral fins extend down from her elbows and a frog emerges from between her head and upswept tail. Sea lion whiskers and red flicker feathers are visible extending up from the headband. White ermine skins hang down the sides and back.
Transformation is at the heart of Haida art and supernatural power. Supernatural beings and ancestors possessing special powers are often depicted with the attributes of two or more beings, indicating their ability to transcend ordinary limitations.

Dogfish Woman is another powerful figure in the pantheon of beings of the sea. The dogfish is a small variety of shark that inhabits the waters of Haida Gwaii. Dogfish Woman is a crest belonging to many of the Haida clans, and is related to a story of a woman ancestor who could transform herself into a dogfish. It is in this form that she enters into a whole other realm of experience, the undersea world.

The gills on her cheeks and her domed forehead identify her as a dogfish. The labret in her lower lip, made from inlaid abalone shell, distinguishes her as a high-ranking woman. Pectoral fins extend down from her elbows and a frog emerges from between her head and upswept tail. Sea lion whiskers and red flicker feathers are visible extending up from the headband. White ermine skins hang down the sides and back.

© 1998, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Sculpture

Carved and painted frontlet representing Dogfish Woman; collected in Skidegate circa 1898. It is worn tied to the forehead by chiefs and high-ranking people who owned the Dogfish Woman crest. It shows a transformation between a woman and a shark.

Photo: Canadian Museum of Civilization

VII-B-1102 (S92-4298)
© Canadian Museum of Civilization


detail of Dogfish woman

Detail, from left to right: gills, labret, frog

Collage: Canadian Heritage Information Network
Canadian Museum of Civilization

VII-B-1102 (S92-4298)
© Canadian Museum of Civilization


Dogfish Button Blanket

This is a button blanket with a shark crest worn by Emily Goertzen at Chief Dadens Memorial Potlatch, 1991, Old Massett..The blanket was designed by Robert Davidson.

Photo: Rolf Bettner

© Rolf Bettner


shark mask

This is a shark mask being danced at Robert Davidson and Terri-Lynn Williams' wedding in Skidigate in 1996. The mask was carved by Robert Davidson.

Photo: Rolf Bettner

© Rolf Bettner


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Summarize the Haida myth of the dogfish woman in words and in pictures
  • Identify elements of Haida art and its importance to Haida culture
  • Name at least one modern Haida artist and reference one of their works

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