Medium and Support:
Wool, cedar bark, natural dyes
Gift of a Friend of the Gallery
Listen to a narrative related to this object.
The Story of How Killer Whale Came to Be
Long ago, in a village by the ocean, there lived a woodcarver whose carvings were so wonderful they seemed to come to life. Though he was a good carver, he was always quarreling with people, especially his wife's three brothers. One day the brothers had enough. They convinced the carver to come out to the islands to hunt seals with them. They paddled their canoe to a small rocky island far out in the ocean and told the carver to watch there for the seals. Then the brothers slipped back to their canoe and left the carver alone. Too far from the mainland to swim back, the abandoned woodcarver was very angry.
When some small driftwood pieces washed up onto the shore, the carver picked them up and carved them into the forms of two small whales. "Come to life," he shouted. "Swim!" For a moment it seemed as if those carved pieces of alder wood might be swimming, but they were just floating pieces of carved wood.
The carver tried again with hemlock and then red cedar, carving more carefully, but each time the result was the same. The carver then found two pieces of yellow cedar that he carved very carefully. With chalk he decorated the carvings. As he held those two carved pieces in his hands, he thought he could feel them move. Placing them in the water, he said, "Come to life! Swim!"
Then those carved whales dove deep into the sea. When they came up they were living animals—the first killer whales. They were beautiful, fierce and strong. Their eyes were bright. They swam back to the shore and waited for the carver to tell them what to do.
To help the carver survive, the killer whales drove fish and seals close to the island where he could catch them. The carver saw the canoe of his wife's brothers approaching. Still very angry, he said to the killer whales, "Go sink that canoe." The killer whales dove deep, swam to the canoe, tipped it over, and drowned the brothers. But when the carver saw the sorrow in the eyes of the killer whales, he understood his mistake.
"I am sorry," said the carver. "When I told you to sink the canoe, I was wrong. I was blinded by my anger. You did not wish to harm them. You are beautiful creatures who wish only to be friends with the people. From this time on, you will never again hurt a human being."
So it is to this day that the killer whale remains a friend of humankind, and has never harmed another human being.
Listen to a guided description of this object.
ASL interpretation of the Story of Killer Whale
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