Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

Support ANTIQUES ROADSHOW by supporting public television! Give Today
  • ON TV
  • ON TOUR
  • WATCH ONLINE
  • WEB EXCLUSIVES
  • RESOURCES
  • SHOP
  • The Roadshow Archive

    Early 20th-Century Kwakwaka'wakw Tribal Chief Masks

    Appraised Value:

    $44,000 - $57,000

    Appraised on: July 26, 2003

    Appraised in: Chicago, Illinois

    Appraised by: Donald Ellis

    Category: Tribal Arts

    Episode Info: Chicago, Hour 3 (#803)

    Originally Aired: January 19, 2004

    slideshow IMAGE: 1 of 2 Next 

    More Like This:

    Form: Mask
    Period / Style: 20th Century
    Value Range: $44,000 - $57,000

    Related Links:

    ARTICLE: Buying and Selling Native Artifacts
    For collectors interested in Native American artifacts, there are few important guidelines to bear in mind.

    Understanding Our Appraisals
    Useful tips to keep in mind when watching ANTIQUES ROADSHOW

    Comment

    Appraisal Video: (3:58)

    appraiser

    Appraised By:

    Donald Ellis
    Tribal Arts

    Appraisal Transcript:
    GUEST: These were my wife's dad's masks, and he worked with the forest rangers on the west coast of British Columbia. And I presume they were given to him by the Indians who he worked with.

    APPRAISER: Do you know exactly where he worked out there on the west coast?

    GUEST: Just that it was on the coast and above Vancouver.

    APPRAISER: Yeah. Well, these are made on the north end of Vancouver Island in a place which is now known as Alert Bay or Fort Rupert, and it's at the very tip of Vancouver Island. And they're made by a group of natives who used to be known as the Kwakiutl or the Kwawkewlth. Names are changing now to more appropriate names and their appropriate name is the Kwakwaka'wakw, and those are the speakers of Kwakwala. We have two different kinds of masks here. The bottom three are known as frontlets, and they were used by chiefs in social ceremonies at things like potlatches to honor a marriage or a change in rank, and each one of these has a series of holes-- this one three, and affixed to this would have been a device like a hat. And it would have sat on the top of the head-- the hat part-- so that the mask sat on your forehead, hence the terminology, "a frontlet." And it shows inlays of abalone shell, which was a very prized shell on the west coast of North America, and something we call poor man's abalone, which is mirror. It was cheaper to get old, broken bits of mirror than to use the highly prized abalone shell. These were used only by chiefs. The mask above was used in something called the winter ceremonial, which was a form of theater. It was only done during the wintertime. It was used to enact mythical events of the past, done at night, and a dancer would have either had this strapped to his head or held it from behind as he told the story. In collecting Native American art, there are some questions of legality in owning some of these things and that primarily has to do with, as it stands on the northwest coast, whether objects were owned singularly by an individual or collectively by a group. These particular masks you have here were all owned singularly. All of these would have been individual chiefs'. This would have been used by a dancer, so there's no problems in the commercial market today about ownership of these. They're perfectly legal. Three of these masks represent a thunderbird. One of the masks is a beaver, and we can tell that by these big buck beaver teeth here. Age-wise, late 19th, early 20th century, except for this. This is definitely a 19th century. Any sense at all of the value?

    GUEST: Oh, no, I have no idea.

    APPRAISER: None at all?

    GUEST: No idea.

    APPRAISER: Well, the frontlets, this one, the beaver, probably 1910. You're looking in the neighborhood of $6,000 to $8,000. The thunderbird mask closet to you, slightly older. I suspect these two masks made by the same artist. That's in the neighborhood of $8,000 to $10,000. The lovely round moon-type mask with the thunderbird, $10,000, $12,000, $14,000. And again another thunderbird. I suspect these all came from the same family. We're looking in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $25,000 on the large thunderbird.

    GUEST: That is hard to believe, really.

    APPRAISER: Very desirable, large market for these. There's a reason why it's taken seven years to find masks like this coming into the ROADSHOW. They're not that common.

    GUEST: Yes.



    WGBH This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation.
    ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
    WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
    PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.

    ROADSHOW on Facebook ROADSHOW Tweets ROADSHOW on YouTube