Walter J. Phillips (1884-1963)
Siwash House Posts, Tsatsisnukomi, B.C., 1928
colour woodcut on paper (edition: 300)
15.9 x 22.5 cm

Printed on Goyu paper from six cherry-wood blocks, this is the second print in the 1928 portfolio of seven colour prints entitled The Canadian Scene. Phillips provided the following commentary:

Alert Bay did not display that wealth of Siwash art I had been led to expect. The place has been stripped of course: huge totem poles have been transplanted, all the masks and costumes incidental to the now illegal potlatch ceremonies have been confiscated. Most of the large community houses have been evacuated, and in some cases razed, while all that is left of the others —huge pillars supporting the roof-tree, all fluted with the adze—reminds you of the columned aisles of an ancient temple. Some of the columns are sculptured inn heraldic devices and these, and the dug-out canoes, gave me a tremendous respect for Siwash art. I wanted to see more of it. So we provisioned the gas-boat and, when the tide was favourable, for it runs fast in those channels, we sailed east for perhaps twenty miles past delightful, but deserted islands, the snowcapped peaks of the Coast Range ahead and the mountains of Vancouver Island astern. The occasional turbulence of the sea was caused by the tide. Whirlpools formed and vanished. A backwash from some shore athwart the race made rough water. Kelp in great quantities was present everywhere. Late in the afternoon, we came to Tsatsisnukomi. The gleaming beach, shaped like the new moon, was fringed with a row of buildings, mostly weathered grey. There were community-houses, both habitable and derelict, and a few shacks in the American style. A fine canoe with a painted prow, lay on the beach. The only carvings visible were within a dismantled community house and had served as supports for its mighty rafters. They were obviously family crests and as such, were quite as interesting as many of the devices issued by the College of Heralds. The place was entirely deserted save by an army of large and loath some slugs and the ghosts of dead Indians. The forest presses on the back walls of the buildings.

This is a winter village. The whole population was, at that time, fishing, with headquarters some miles away.

The animals represented in the print are bears, each with a wolf gnawing at its stomach.

Also extant are a pencil sketch and a watercolour of this subject.