Object: Haida Hat

E/1957/24/6
Haida: Men’s Hat
British Columbia, Canada
ca 1880
Materias: wood, pigment

This object is a conical shaped Haida hat made out of twined cedar wood. It is painted with a red and black abstract motif.

The Haida Indians are native to the northern parts of British Columbia in the Queen Charlotte Islands. They are often employed in the logging industries, fishing and the arts. The abundant resource of wood has allowed them to incorporate canoes, totem poles and hats into their art and ceremonial traditions.

This men’s hat probably served as clan hat. Hats were the most important items of dress among Northwest Coast tribes. Families display their clans or crests on masks and clothing. The most important occasions for such displays are the potlatches. Clothing elements worn at potlatch ceremonies display clan affiliation. The Haida belong to one or two clans, the Eagle or the Raven clan. Both animals are held in high regard, but the Raven is accredited with various components of creation and is considered to be the cultural hero of the Haida.

Haida and other Northwest Coast objects are very distinct. This hat represents the common use of red and black pigment. Black is typically the primary color, whereas red is the secondary color. The unique use of formlines and abstract shapes complement the color scheme on this mask. Like other Haida masks, this was likely woven by a woman and painted by a man. The traditional gender division of labor is still practiced today. This mask was made during the late 19th century during a time that Northwest Coast art production was at a slump. A resurgence of the traditional art occurred during the second half of the 20th century. While this hat is presently in fragile condition, it once likely served as a durable ceremonial element for its owner.

[Alana Cox]

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