Whale design

Charlie George Sr. Xalxidicirca 1910

Royal BC Museum

Royal BC Museum
Victoria, Canada


  • Title: Whale design
  • Creator: Charlie George Sr. Xalxidi
  • Creator Lifespan: 1899/1951
  • Creator Nationality: Canadian, ʼNakʼwaxdaʼx̱w
  • Creator Birth Place: Ba’as (Blunden Harbour)
  • Date: circa 1910
  • Location: Bella Bella
  • The story of Soogwilis: Soogwilis was the nephew of the Chief of Ba’as. When a boy, he was carried off by a giant eagle. He stabbed at the eagle with his hunting knife causing the bird to drop him into the sea below. Soogwilis taunted the eagle, who was really Kweequis, the Mischief-Maker, in disguise. Kweequis then turned himself into a whale and swallowed Soogwilis. The boy remained inside the whale for four days before Kwee-quis released him. From this encounter, Soogwilis obtained the power to turn himself into an animal wherever he wished.
  • The design: The whale's tail is at the top. Below is a split design showing the body of the whale.
  • Physical Dimensions: w256 x h198 mm
  • History of the drawing: One of a series of 39 coloured drawings made for the Reverend Dr Richard W. Large by Charlie George, a young ʼNakʼwaxdaʼx̱w boy from Ba’as (Blunden Harbour) who was a patient at the Bella Bella hospital. Large was the hospital’s doctor and the Methodist missionary at Bella Bella from 1898 to 1910. His interest in First Nations culture is evident in the collection of Heiltsuk art and artifacts that he made for the Royal Ontario Museum, as well as in these drawings illustrating the Kwakwaka’wakw story of Soogwilis. Charlie George recovered from his illness and went on to be a distinguished artist. Years later, Dr R. W. Large’s son, Dr R. Geddes Large, met Charlie George and learned the story of Soogwilis. He published the story with the drawings in 1951 (Soogwilis: A Collection of Kwakiutl Designs and Legends, Ryerson Press, Toronto).
  • Provenance: Royal BC Museum RBCM15897
  • Type: drawing - graphite and coloured pencil on paper

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps