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Chief Mungo Martin (1879-1962)

Bronze plaque from a totem pole 1958

66.0 x 31.0 x 1.5 cm (whole object) | RCIN 69833

Grand Vestibule, Windsor Castle

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  • Made from sheets of beaten copper, shield-like 'Coppers' such as this are perhaps the most significant display of wealth among the indigenous communities of the Northwest Coast of North America (modern British Columbia, Alaska, Washington and Oregon). Coppers are highly prized objects and could have the same value as two to three canoes. They are decorated using the characteristic formline ovoid and u-shapes that are common throughout Northwest Coast art and which are intended to represent spirits, ancestors and nature. They are normally given, and occasionally destroyed, by chiefs at gift-giving ceremonies known as potlatches. These ceremonies are often held to commemorate significant life events such as births, coming-of-age, marriages and deaths, and can be accompanied by the raising of a totem pole.

    This Copper was given with the totem pole that is now in Windsor Great Park. It was a gift from the People of Canada to The Queen in June 1958. The pole commemorates the centenary of the naming of British Columbia and is 100 foot high - one foot for each year. It was presented by the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation, a federation of many tribes and clans inhabiting the northern part of Vancouver Island and the coastal mainland. The designer of the pole was Chief Mungo Martin (1879-1962) one of the most significant carvers on the Northwest Coast, responsible for keeping indigenous skills alive during the first half of the twentieth century and aiding in their revival in the 1950s and early 1960s.  Martin may also have designed the Copper, but it may equally be the work of Willie Seaweed 'Smoky Top' (1873–1967), a leading Nakwakta'kw Northwest Coast carver with whom Martin collaborated on several occasions.
    Provenance

    Presented to The Queen in 1958 by the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation to commemorate the centenary of the naming of the province of British Columbia.

  • Medium and techniques
    Measurements

    66.0 x 31.0 x 1.5 cm (whole object)