Thesis Title

Masks of Northwest Coastal Indians: Transformation of the Human Spirit

Graduation Date

Summer 1998

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


This is a historical study on 19th century transformation masks. These masks are exclusive to a group of Northwest Coastal Indians notably the Kwakiutl tribe. Further study reveals their rich culture where myth, ritual, drama are not exclusive to masking. Form and function of this particular mask are explored as well as therapeutic implications.

The purpose of this study is to present the significant roles that masking and ritual play within the Kwakiutl culture and what human, social and cultural function it fulfills. Further exploration looks into the rich tradition of the Kwakiutl mask making and how it is alive in art therapy and drama therapy. Finally, this paper looks at the relevancy of masking in expressive arts therapy serving a human need.

Data was obtained from many sources ranging from anthropologists who have studied the Kwakiutl people in depth, to experts in the field of art therapy and drama therapy.