Supernatural World: The Sea, The Land and The Sky


(Domestic Terminal, Level 1)




For the First Nations people of the Pacific Northwest Coast, the cosmos holds worlds both seen and unseen.

These are the worlds of the sea, the land and the sky. Inhabited by the creatures of nature, they are also home to spirit powers that can move between realms, transforming themselves at will. Some families tell of spirit beings who came down from the sky to become their first ancestors. Many stories are told of animals who live in human-like villages hidden from view.

The sculptures shown here offer us a glimpse into these supernatural worlds. The Killer Whale, chief of all ocean people, is preyed upon by the legendary Thunderbird. Sharing the land are a Bear and a Human, each reflecting the other’s image in a pair of enormous masks. Soaring overhead are two great sky-beings, the Raven and the Eagle.

The landscape setting, designed by Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, C.M., Landscape Architect, echoes the coastal shell and shingle beaches that front the forest and the face of the sea.


Thunderbird and Killer Whale
Richard Hunt, 1999
Red cedar, paint
2.7 m x 4.0 m x 1.2 m  (9' x 13' x 2')

In this carving, I’ve shown the Thunderbird swooping down to eat the Killer Whale. The Killer Whale has a seal in the mouth. Human faces are represented on the side fins, a Bear on the dorsal fin and an Eagle on the tail and in the blowhole.

All of the figures and designs belong to the Kwa-Giulth people, with the Eagle being the main crest of my people at Fort Rupert, British Columbia. Killer Whales, said to be the spirits of high-ranking chiefs, are used in the Klasala (peace dance). The Thunderbird regalia is used in a dance called the Tamed Hamatsa. Thunderbirds are said to feast on Killer Whales, their favorite food. I was given the right to the Thunderbird at a family potlatch.
Richard Hunt
Born in Alert Bay, British Columbia, in 1951, Richard Hunt comes from a family of internationally respected Kwa-Giulth artists. He began carving at the age of 12 under his father, Henry Hunt. In 1973 he joined his father, chief carver at the Royal British Columbia Museum, as an apprentice, and in the following year was appointed chief carver in the Thunderbird Park carving program. Hunt resigned from this position 13 years later to become a freelance artist. He now lives and works in Victoria. He has many public and private commissions, both nationally and internationally. He also creates cultural property for potlatch use and is an experienced ritualist and dancer.

Bear and Human Masks
Dempsey Bob, 1999
Red Cedar, horesehair, paint
Bear/Human Mask 2.1 m x 91 cm x 61 cm (84" x 36" x 24")
Human/Bear Mask 1/5 m x 76 cm x 61 cm (60" x 30" x 24")

I remember going salmon fishing in our traditional territories. We would fish among the grizzlies and black bears. My grandmother would speak to them in our language and explain that we were from the Bear clan, and that we wouldn’t harm them. The bears always left us alone.

One of these masks represents a Bear; 3 a small Human looks out between the ears. The other carving is a Human 4 portrait mask, with a little Bear on the forehead. The Bear is part of the land just as humans are. Whatever happens to the bear happens to the environment around us.

Dempsey Bob
Dempsey Bob, an artist of Tlingit and Tahltan heritage, was born in 1948 at Telegraph Creek in northwestern British Columbia. He began carving at age 22. Bob is a member of the Wolf clan and received traditional training from his parents and grandparents. He also undertook formal art studies. In all of his work, Dempsey Bob strives to express the ongoing connections among the land, the people, and their living culture. Today, Bob lives in Terrace. He travels widely to teach his art and fulfill special commissions. His wood carvings, jewelry, and bronze sculptures can be found in museums and private collections around the world.


Hugging The World
Robert Davidson, 1999
Red cedar, paint, copper
2.7m x 4.0m x 1.0m (1.1' x 13.1' x 3.3')

I think of the Raven as our cultural hero. The complement to the Raven is the Eagle. I chose these two crests of the Haida to give a balance to the composition - the Raven is looking inward, and the Eagle looks out from the back of the Raven’s head. The same human hands act as their outstretched wings.

The sculpture is a solution to working within a challenging space. I wanted to expand the idea of making public art – to create a piece that complements the setting rather than competes with it.

Robert Davidson
Haida artist Robert Davidson was born in 1946 in Hydaburg, Alaska, and raised at Old Massett on Haida Gwaii (the Queen Charlotte Islands). Davidson began carving at about age 13 under the guidance of his father, Claude Davidson and grandfather, Robert Davidson Senior. His grandmother, Florence Davidson – the daughter of renowned carver Charles Edenshaw – was an important influence in his life and art. In 1969, Robert Davidson carved the first totem pole to be raised in Haida Gwaii in 90 years. He remains committed to Haida ceremony as integral to his art and life. Davidson has completed numerous sculpture commissions, and has works in Canadian and international collections.



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