Dzonoqua Doll by Shona-Hah

 Art, Native Culture  Comments Off on Dzonoqua Doll by Shona-Hah
Dec 152018

I ran across this exquisite doll depicting a person in a Dzonoqua ceremonial mask and costume.  The mask shows the traditional depiction of Dzonoqua, the wild woman of the woods, with her pursed lips as if whistling (as bigfoots are reported to do).  Dzonoqua is covered in hair, and is often represented in ceremonies by a person wearing bear fur and a mask as is seen in the doll.  In the images above, Dzonoqua’s breasts are depicted indicating she is a female figure, a giantess or ogress, not her mail counterpart known as Bukwas.  It is generally thought that she and Bukwas represent sasquatch.  For more on the Dzonoqua mythology, click this link.  

The artist responsible for this piece is the late Shona-Hah, also known as Mary Smith.  The work was created sometime around 1980 using red cedar, cedar bark, wood, faux fur, greens and pigment.  I think all would agree this is a tremendous representation.  

I could find little online about Shona-Hah, though I found many pieces of art she created.  What little I found about the artist herself is below:

Shona-Hah (1912-1997) is the mother of Lelooska, Kwunkwa-dzi, Patty Fawn, and Tsungani. She was born in a black walnut log cabin in Oklahoma’s old Cherokee Nation. There, she was given the name Shona-Hah, “gray dove”. Her Kwakiutl name, Tl’alilhilugwa, bestowed in 1968 by , means “whale rising”.

Shona-Hah’s life bespeaks her Indian heritage. In her youth, she both trained horses and rode in races and exhibitions. As a small child, she began participating in the traditional dances and continued throughout her life. Always interested in all facets of Indian art, she exceled at beadwork, skin sewing, carving, painting, and doll making.

Her dolls are valued highly by private collectors and museums as illustrations of vanished cultures. They bring alive both ceremonial and every day events in the lives of the people of many different North American tribes. From the Osage of Oklahoma to the Kwakiutls of British Columbia, she draws on first-hand knowledge of the cultures and the memories of the Old Ones for her inspiration.

Shona-Hah’s children credit her with their love and respect for Indian art and traditions. She taught them the skills she had acquired and sacrificed to help them become artists in their own right.

“She and our grandfather,” Lelooska says, “imparted to us that which was to become the essence of our heritage.”

Passing away in October of 1997, Shona-Hah occupied a place of major importance in the family structure. A cohesive element in the group, she was also an important contributor to the educational programs. She not only participated in them, she also made many of the costumes.

If you or someone you know has more information about Shona Ha, her work, or her legacy, I would be very interested to hear more about it.  Feel free to contact me by clicking this link and sharing what you know about her.  Thank you!

UPDATE – 12/18/18

A reader sent me more information on Shona-Hah from the Seattle Times.  The article is below:

Indian Dollmaker Carves Niche For Herself With An EyeFor Detail
By Tom Vogt

ARIEL, Cowlitz County – Shona-Hah prefers old faces. Creased by the years, weary and wrinkled, they have stories to tell. And she helps tell them. She coaxes their stories out of wood, then fills them in with cloth and leather and human hair. When she’s done, the result is a 12-inch doll portraying a Native American; an old Indian,usually.

“I don’t like to carve young people,” she said in her studio near Ariel, northeast of Woodland. “They don’t have much to say. Older people have a lot of history on them.”

That includes the Clark County dollmaker. Her father performed in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. Born in 1911, Mary Smith is three-quarters Cherokee and one-quarter French. (Shona-Hah is Cherokee for Gray Dove and it is the name she uses professionally.) She says she was born in Oklahoma or Missouri. Their dirt-floor cabin straddled the state line, and “I don’t know which state I was born in,” she said with a smile.

She lived on a reservation until the age of 4, then grew up on a Wyoming cattle ranch. At 6, Mary survived being struck by lightning. “Shoshone and Arapaho would come down to touch her,” Don Smith, her son, said. “They thought she was blessed. That’s some heavy-duty blessing.

“Don Smith was seated at a nearby table, bent over a block of cedar that will become shore birds nesting on an ocean-side rock. He is better known as noted story-teller and mask-carver Chief Lelooska.

“Almost everybody here has more than one name; it’s hard for the post office to sort it out,” said Patty Fawn, Mary Smith’s daughter.


Three of Mary Smith’s four children are artists with work on display at the Lelooska Gallery. Mary Smith has been an artist for most of her life, although she might dispute that description.

“She doesn’t consider herself an artist,” Fawn said. “But people who collect her dolls fight over them.

“One collector calls Mary Smith the modern equivalent of Charlie Russell.

“He was the best of the Western artists,” said Ken MacRae of Enumclaw. “She has more skill, she’s better at what she does” than anyone else in her line of work.

“Most people call them dolls, but I call them little people,” said MacRae, who has been collecting Smith’s work for 30 years. “She doesn’t know she’s the artist that she is.”

“I carve to help make a living for my family,” Mary Smith said as her son’s knife released more fragrance of fresh-carved cedar into the room. “It’s a necessity. Isn’t that what drives us all?

“I just remember the crazy jobs I took,” said Smith, who just turned 84. “I carved a lot of flying horses for Mobil Oil managers. I’ve done velvet paintings. One woman, whose husband was an importer, had her house fashioned in Chinese style and wanted dragons on her drapes.”

After the woman bought two huge pieces of velvet for the drapes, “We painted gold dragons on black velvet,” she said.

“I carved 100 horses with saddles so we could put a roof on our house here,” she said.


Smith has no idea how many Indian dolls she has produced, although she kept a log for several years.

“You can see the price go up, too,” Smith said. The early works in the log went for about $250 in the mid 1970’s. One of her latest creations is “The Journey,” showing an old woman and her dog on a trek. It is on display next door at the family gallery with a price tag of $1,250. MacRae said four of Smith’s dolls were selling for $1,800 apiece at a recent Indian art show in California.

Each transaction in Smith’s log also described the type of Indian, and what he or she was doing.

“I like to have them doing something – making baskets, cutting up a salmon. One played the violin,” Smith said. Her current creation is an Indian woman carrying her grandson in a blanket backpack.

“Like a lot of people raised traditionally, an Indian lady is never idle,” Don Smith said. “That’s why the dolls do something.”

Each Indian also represents a particular tribe.

“We always try to put them in authentic costumes,” she said. “Seminoles are the worst – those costumes. And they’ll drive you crazy with their hairdos.”

“Nobody anywhere is making them as accurately as she is,” MacRae said.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

Historic Account of a Giant’s Skull in Oregon

 Anthropology, Cultural, History, Native Culture  Comments Off on Historic Account of a Giant’s Skull in Oregon
Aug 122016

Memaloose Island is a small , rocky isle in the Columbia River a few miles east of Hood River which the local Native people used as a burial site for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  Until recent times, the Native Americans of the Columbia River did not bury their dead.  They instead wrapped the corpses in reeds, skins, or other materials and placed them inside canoes or structures at sacred sites, such as this island.  For an interesting history of the island, click this link (there are some pretty unsettling photos, so link-clicker beware!).

I recently received an email from a friend notifying me of an interesting tidbit found in a comment under a photograph of Memaloose Island on the website  The comment is a short account from the recollections of Ira Rowland (1873-1965).  He remembers being on the island a number of times, and vividly recounts his witnessing of Victor Trivett in 1883, when Ira was almost 10 years old.   Click here to visit the page and read the full comment.

The section of this comment that is of interest reads as follows:

“I visited Memaloose lots of times in the old days before the high waters washed away so many relics and people looted so much of the stuff. There was a big skull there that always interested me. I would sure have liked to have seen the man it belonged to when he was alive. My uncle, Green Rowland, measured it. It was thirteen inches from jawbone to jawbone. There was a bullet hole in the forehead, so we always knew how of the giant died.”

Missing, of course, is the skull, any piece of it, or any photos of it.  Also missing is the information telling us what measureing “jawbone to jawbone” means.  It seems that Ira found the skull to be noteworthy in size, so it must have stuck out from the hundreds of other skulls on the island.

The mandible seemed to draw the attention of at least two people, Ira and his uncle, Green.  Without any supporting evidence, there is only a little we can uncover about the possible size of the jaw.  But, with unclear language as our only clue, there are a few ways to think about this mystery.

First, and possibly the most likely, it could be that Ira is not being factual, which is not to say that he was lying (though this possibility exists, too).  Perhaps he was just told that his uncle measured it, or the number was exaggerated.  We don’t know if Ira saw his uncle take the measurement, after all.  We just have to trust that his memory served him well when his account was written down so many years after the event.

Assuming Ira’s story is accurate, we might look at the other possibilities.  Certainly, if the measurement is 13 inches from one mandibular condyle to the other (these are the two points on the jaw bone that are furthest up and back on the jaw where the linear distance between the two would be the greatest), this would be a massive skull.  The average human male has a width of a little under five inches for this measurement.  The giant skull would be 260% larger in this regard.  This jibes well with what few estimates we have for the width of a large sasquatch’s head.  However, Sasquatch skulls would certainly be morphologically different than a human’s in ways other than size, especially at adulthood and of this size.  One would wonder why no other unusual features were mentioned in regards to the shape of the skull or the possible differences in dentation.

A diagram showing the average human measurements.

Another possibility is that Green Rowland took that 13 inch measurement another way.  Perhaps it was the distance from one mandibular condyle around the front of the jaw to the other.  To estimate the spread of the mandibles for comparison purposes, I approximated the jaw into a half circle with the half-circumference of 13 inches.  Using C=2πr with C=26, the radius is 4.14 inches.  Doubling this for the width of the mandible gives us a spread of 8.28 inches, still very large indeed.  In fact, this measurement conforms nicely to just a little over the width of the largest gigantopithecus mandible I have in my collection (a bit worse-for-wear, but the first replica I obtained from Dr. Grover Krantz way back in the 1990s).

Gigantopithecus mandible

Gigantopithecus mandible

Of the two measurements considered above, I think a linear measurement would be the most likely metric taken.  The vertical aspect complicates the half-circumference method, and would probably be inaccurate once obtained anyway.

If we consider Ira Rowland’s recollection of this giant mandible to be true and accurate, what kind of mammal did the mandible come from?  Since Ira mentioned that a skull that went with the mandible, it can be assumed that it was a human, or at least very human-like.  If the skull and mandible came from a human (Homo sapiens), then that was one big dude.  There is no reason to doubt the possibility that a really, really big Native man lived at some point and had his remains interred on the island.  This is the most logical conclusion, though the measurements cast some suspicion on this scenario.  Some readers might opt for an explanation involving the numerous giant skeletons that are rumored to have been found in North America, but which the Smithsonian and other institutions have swept out of our view for some nefarious reason (I find most conspiracy theories tiresome and convenient excuses for a lack of verifiable evidence).  This latter scenario seems the least likely of those put forth here so far.

Another interesting possibility is that these bones might have come from a sasquatch that had been killed.  This is also not a likely possibility, but one that is fun to consider.  Could it be that at some point a bigfoot was shot in the head and killed, only to have its body given the funeral rites of any other Native American person at the time?  After all, a common traditional Native view of sasquatches is that they are just another tribe of people living alongside their human cousins.  It seems possible that a dead sasquatch would be treated with the reverence and respect offered to any other person and left on Memaloose Island with the other dead.  The rest of the hypothetical bigfoot’s remains would be lost in the jumble of bones that was present on the island back in the 19th Century.  They simply wouldn’t stand out like a skull would.

While the discussion above is a fun mental exercise, it is of little importance.  Without the mandible in question to examine, let alone a sasquatch mandible to compare it to, any conclusions are speculations at best, and utterly meaningless at worst (though I don’t really see this as a bad thing).  All we can say with any certainty is that even if the report is true and accurate, and if that mandible came from a sasquatch, then another opportunity to bring in a substantial part of a sasquatch slipped though history’s fingers.

Still, I have to wonder…  If this tale is true, where is the skull?

For another story about a possible sasquatch skull and another missed opportunity, click here.