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Mask of Dzunukwa face (Museum of Anthropology at UBC)

Dzunuḵ̓wa, also Tsonoqua, Tsonokwa, is a figure in Kwakwaka'wakw mythology . She is an ancestor of the Namgis clan through her son, Tsilwalagame. She is venerated as a bringer of wealth, but is also greatly feared by children, because she is also known as an ogress who steals children and carries them home in her basket to eat.

Her appearance is that of a naked, black in colour, old monster with long pendulous breasts.[1] She is also described as having bedraggled hair.[2] In masks and totem pole images she is shown with bright red pursed lips because she is said to give off the call "Hu!" It is often told to children that the sound of the wind blowing through the cedar trees is actually the call of Dzunuḵ̓wa. Some myths say that she is able to bring herself back from the dead (an ability which she uses in some myths to revive her children) and regenerate any wound. She has limited eyesight, and can be easily avoided because she can barely see. She is also said to be rather drowsy and dim-witted. She possesses great wealth and will bestow it upon those who are able to get control of her child.

In one myth a tribe tricks her into falling into a pit of fire. The tribe burned her for many days until nothing was left, which prevented her from reviving herself. It is said that the ashes that came off this fire turned into mosquitoes.

At the end of a Kwakiutl potlatch ceremony, the host chief comes out bearing a mask of Dzunuḵ̓wa which is called the geekumhl. This is the sign that the ceremony is over.

In popular culture[edit]

A witch-spirit named Tsonokwa was the antagonist in the 1976 film Shadow of the Hawk.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U'mista Museum, Dzunukwa Mask [1], Kwakwakawakw Museum in Alert Bay
  2. ^ Thom, Ian M.; McMichael Canadian Art Collection (2009). Challenging traditions: contemporary First Nations art of the Northwest Coast (illustrated ed.). Publisher Douglas & McIntyre. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-55365-414-8. Retrieved February 2, 2011. 
  • Hawthorn, Audrey. (1988). Kwakiutl Art. University of Washington Press. ISBN 978-0-88894-612-6.
  • Jonaitis, Aldona. (1991). Chiefly Feasts: The Enduring Kwakiutl Potlatch. University of Washington Press. ISBN 978-0-295-97114-8.
  • McDowell, Jim. (1997). Hamatsa: The Enigma of Cannibalism on the Pacific Northwest Coast. Ronsdale Press. ISBN 978-0-921870-47-0.
  • Wallas, James and Whitaker, Pamela. (1989). Kwakiutl Legends. Hancock House Publishing. ISBN 978-0-88839-230-5.

External links[edit]