The masks of Owechemis

Elida Peers writes about the history of the Sooke region

Owechemis' carved cedar mask.

Here on a visit in 1983 from her home in High River, Alberta, Rose-Marie Massey accompanied her sister Claudette to the Royal British Columbia Museum to have a look at the historic masks that had belonged to their great-grandmother, Owechemis.

“Owechemis” is the name being assigned to one of the trees now planted on the new street, Wadams Way, a series of fifteen trees designed to recognize personages from our history.  Both women, Rose-Marie and Claudette, are daughters of Byron and Hazel Parman, who were longtime Sooke residents.  The English name given to Owechemis was “Kitty.”

As detailed in an earlier column, we retell the story provided us many years ago by Ida Jones, wife of Queesto, Chief of the Pacheedaht people of Port Renfrew.  She said “there was a war between Indians of different tribes … a long time ago, Kitty’s father, the chief, he wanted to stop the war, he wanted to save the people of his village so he gave his daughter away … a very young girl, maybe 13 or 14, he held her up and showed her, a peace offering … to stop the war …”

We have been told that many years later, Owechemis’ brother from the west coast of Vancouver Island, who had been searching for her, found her at last.  After several adventures, Owechemis (Kitty) had married Aaron Denton White, a Brit, who was working as a road foreman in the East Sooke/Metchosin area.  The couple raised four daughters and a son, who all married and made their homes between Victoria and Jordan River.

When Owechemis’ brother finally found her, she was widowed and living in a cottage at the western end of Grant Road.  The brother’s joy was so great at being able to renew the family connection, he wanted to share their heritage, and presented her with several carved cedar masks.

In 1924 Owechemis or “Kitty White” turned this mask collection over to the Provincial Museum, where these special treasures rest in the ethnology department. The human-like mask held by Rose-Marie has moveable eyes, while the other is a Nootka hawk forehead mask. Another Parman daughter, Audrey Goudie, has brought us up to date on this family heritage.

 

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

Just Posted

Sun on its way after Greater Victoria sees wettest July in six years

Environment Canada meteorologists say the drizzle is likely to end soon

After Victoria dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

Join Oak Bay’s heritage walk and scavenger hunt this Saturday

Hunt seeks significant examples of historical architecture in Oak Bay

How Victoria’s little Ecole Beausoleil is at the heart of a national court case

100-year-old Bank Street school and the Sundance facility to be re-designated an elementary school

Cars keyed on BC Ferries after alarms bother dog on board

Delta police arrested one passenger on suspicion of mischief

VIDEO: 1,400 classic cars roll into Victoria for Deuce Days

The four-day festival highlights classic hot rods, with a special emphasis on cars built in 1932

B.C. woman wins record $2.1 million on casino slot machine

‘That night was so surreal … I wasn’t able to sleep or eat for the first two days,’ she said

LETTER: Refining bitmen not a good idea

One of the arguments against increasing the capacity of the Trans Mountain… Continue reading

LETTER: Welcome to Nevergreen Mall

Re: Work starts on mall expansion (News, July 17) Welcome to Nevergreen… Continue reading

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Two toddler siblings found drowned on First Nation in Alberta

The siblings were found drowned on their family’s property, according to RCMP

Chiefs honour Indigenous leader wrongfully hanged in B.C. 154 years ago today

Chief Joe Alphonse says they want his remains returned to his homeland in B.C.’s Cariboo region

Most Read