Giglam Legend of the Namgis and Thunderbird Rattle

Artist: Johnathan Henderson
Region: Kwakwaka’wakw
Material: Cedarwood and acrylic paint

Height: 30″
Base: 9.5″

The Namgis are an Indigenous nation and part of the Kwakwaka’wakw, situated on Vancouver Island. Gigal’gam is one na’mima (meaning of one kind) of the Namgis. Their name translates to the first ones. Their ancestor is the Thunderbird, a supernatural bird which looks similar to an eagle, but large enough to lift a grey whale.

Xwa’xwas felled big cedars and dragged them to the beach to build a house. Kwinkwinxwaliga’yi, a great Thunderbird arrived to help Xwa’xwas to lift the big cedars. Xwa’xwas said “I wish you were a man so you could help me build my house.” Then Kwinkwinxwaliga’yi took off his birds’ head, which was only a mask, and he removed his feathers, as if it were a blanket. The Thunderbird became human and built Xwa’xwas a house. All Gigal’gam are descended from him and Xwa’xwas.

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