This Transformation of Supernatural Wolf into Killer Whale Drum is by Kwagu’ł artist Calvin Hunt. The drum has a killer whale and wolf design in green and black acrylic. The drum measures 16 inches or nearly 41 cm across and about 2 1/2 inches or 7cm wide. Materials: Wood, elk hide, and acrylic paint.
Calvin Hunt’s 16-inch drum of painted elk hide depicts the transformation of two supernatural beings central to Nuu-chah-nulth thought and ritual practice. Calvin’s familiarity with these cultural traditions comes through his mother Maxwalaogwa, Emma Hunt. She was the Nuu-chah-nulth daughter of the great Mowochaht Chief and Shaman, Dr. Billy from Yuquot, Friendly Cove. With this heritage, Calvin Hunt's Mowachaht name is Hereditary Chief Nas’a̱m’yus.
Calvin Hunt’s drum design reflects an ancient Nuu-chah-nulth oral tradition of the transformation of a supernatural white Wolf who enters the sea and becomes the first Killer Whale. In some stories, the Orca’s supernatural power allows it to move onto the land and transform into Wolf. The Nuu-chah-nulth translate Ka-ka-win-chealth as “supernatural white Wolf transforming into a Killer Whale.”
On this drum, Calvin Hunt rendered the Killer Whale in dominant green formlines. The whale’s massive head and toothed mouth lunges to the right as the animal breaches the black waves shown on the drum’s upper rim. The whale’s mighty breath explodes in front of its tall dorsal fin. Inside the whale’s body, Calvin Hunt has depicted Wolf in black formlines with the animal’s characteristic long snout, large nostrils, toothed mouth, tall ears, and long tail that curves next to the whale’s bifurcated tail. The wolf’s front and back legs with their clawed paws seem to push through the whale’s body, anticipating the very moment of transforming into a Killer Whale.
Many Northwest Coast First Nations have supernatural Killer Whales or Orcas as important beings in their stories and beliefs. As ancestors, these powerful marine mammals are sometimes regarded as the reincarnation of chiefs. Many nations recount how the whales have a human personification and the ability to transform from human to animal form. In Nuu-chah-nulth winter ceremonials, high-ranking individuals may be initiated in the Klukwana or Wolf ritual that passes on inherited privileges of dances, titles, and names.
According to the Nuu-chah-nulth, Orcas and Wolves share fundamental characteristics: both are half white and half black, are known and admired for their communication skills and wisdom as well as for their hunting prowess, are family-oriented, and travel in socially cohesive groups often led by an alpha female.