Gunas and The Halibut

Northwest Coast
Art Type
Silkscreen on Arches natural paper
Signed Limited Edition Print # 42 of 125
Size (in)
Paper size (H x W): 11 x 14 ½ in
Size (cm)
Paper size (H x W): 28 x 37 cm
Not Framed, please enquire
Product ID



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Gunas and The Halibut‘ by Norman Tait – Northwest Coast Nisga’a artist – 1980 print series presented by DaVic Gallery of Native Canadian Arts

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Condition:       Mat tape on top edge of print verso.   Very Good condition overall.

Description by Artist:     No description found…

Notes from DaVic Gallery:    Tlingit Chief Laay, led his people from their home in Alaska to the village of Gwinwoḵ on the Nass River in Canada.  During the trip, Gunas went swimming in the waters near Cape Fox, where he was suddenly attacked and swallowed whole by a giant halibut.  Everybody was scared and they called for supernatural halibut and they called for supernatural eagle to help them.  The eagle managed to bring the halibut ashore, and soon they came and cut the halibut open the help Gunas out, but the body of Gunas was already decayed.  They sing a dirge song, funeral song about Gunas being captured alive by a halibut.

This story is typical of crest legends where it brings together an episode of the legendary past with a story and a song.  It also establishes the debt owed by the halibut to the clan. The Gunas crest connects the Nisg̱a’a Tlingit to halibut fishing – Gunas paid for the crest with his life.  Crest stories frequently involve someone owing a debt, or violating a taboo or getting into a disagreement with an animal power or deity, and being killed. This death creates a new debt in the symbolic economy, and the family earns the right to a story, or song, or place, or the right to hunt a particular animal.