As more wood is added to the fire in the “big-house” the leaping flames light up the cedar plank walls, the carved corner posts of the house and the strong roof beams. The dancing, the drumming and the singing continue but now the beat is slow as the Crawling Wolf Dance is about to begin. In the centre of the dance area two dancers, wearing wolf headdresses with flared nostrils and bared teeth, are crouched down on all fours, laying low, quiet, capes wrapped close.
Drums throb with a slow beat, the wolf dancers prepare themselves. As the beat quickens and the tempo rises so does each dancer. Rising up yet remaining on all fours, they move in opposite directions, turn, and dance-crawl toward each other again. Turning around each other they part once more and continue dancing. the voices of the singers intone the words to the steady sound of the drum’s beat as the dancers twist and turn, flaring out the cape bearing the wolf design, transforming themselves from humans to wolves in the spirit of the Crawling Wolf Dance, four times over.
There is deep, personal meaning in this dance for artist-dancer Joe David for the wolf is a crest of his family and he has the right and privilege to perform it. Joe’s Indian name is Ka-Ka-Win-Cheelth, which he visualizes as white wolf transforming into killer whale, through a legend that tells how the killer whale got its white patches.
This unique design of the Crawling Wolf Dancer, captured at the moment of the turn in the centre dance area, is one of great feeling and vitality and completes the series of four dancers.
The wolf headdress with its long snout and bared teeth is facing left, in the centre; below is the front left leg and claws, while sweeping around and above is the body of the animal in the turning position. Design elements within the body depict ribs and stomach. Between the body and the headdress lies the right hind leg; towards the top is the oval hip joint and finally the tail sweeping to the right.
Joe David was born in 1946 at Opitsaht, a Clayoquot village on Meares Island, on the western shore of Vancouver Island. The family resettled to Seattle, Washington, in 1958—and they moved frequently during his teen years. His father, Hyacinth David, was a respected chief and elder of the Clayoquot nation, and even though he had removed his family from Nuu-chah-nulth territory, he remained connected to the village and practiced the traditional values and ceremonies.
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