Art & Art History ETDs

Publication Date



Nuxalk mask making styles changed throughout the twentieth century for various reasons. The ideas of transition, transformation, and the market are central to the establishment of these alterations. Mask making is one response to acculturation and one means of cultural survival; masks are an outward form of cultural pride.

The nineteenth century brought increased contact and trade between Native groups and Euro-Americans. Missionaries, more settlers, and tourists came to the Northwest Coast, all of whom wanted to see and experience the authentic Natives of the region before they disappeared. These groups were quickly followed by anthropologists who wanted to study and catalogue Native people and their material culture before authenticity, in their view, disappeared under the onslaught of acculturation. Authenticity was generally viewed by anthropologists as being anything Native made or associated with Native culture that could be traced to pre-contact times and had uses within Native culture above and beyond market value. For tourists, authenticity had a slightly different association and generally meant an object which had been made by, and often sold by, a Native person, and one which appeared to be made by hand. The idea of the hand-made object also included ideas of preindustrial labor, which was valued within the Arts and Crafts movement. Settlers and missionaries held views of authenticity which coincided with the previous two, but the idea of the value changed. For settlers, an authentic Native object or person was one in which there was no evidence of acculturation, and these people and objects could be used to explain the need for Euro-American settlement of the land, as Native people were seen as primitive and in need of civilization. Missionaries added to this the need for the eradication of Native religions and saw the selling of objects associated with these religions as the first step in the conversion to Christianity. The idea of the "Vanishing Race," combined with the stereotype of the ''Noble Savage," colored all interracial interactions at this time. It is arguable whether or not these stereotypes have ever completely died out among the Euro-Americans who still visit the Coast.



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Joyce Szabo

Second Committee Member

Kathleen Stewart Howe

Third Committee Member

David Craven