Kuugan jaad Giidii (Daughter of Mouse Woman)
In Haida oral traditions, kuugan jaad, or Mouse Woman, is a supernatural being. She is often present in our origin stories, helping the storyline along and sometimes lending a hand to the human characters. Kuugan jaad has great strength, having stood up to the Supernatural Ancestress of the Haida Raven clan, Foam Woman. Kuugan jaad was only one of the two beings who could approach Foam Woman, but in doing so she became smaller and smaller and was ultimately reduced to her present, compact size.
Kuugan jaad is the name I gave to a design element that appears in many Northwest Coast designs. After learning that Wilson Duff called this design element “Mighty Mouse”, I chose kuugan jaad because it seemed more appropriate. As kuugan jaad is a new name, it is unlikely that Charles Edenshaw intended to include this supernatural being in his designs however, he would have unconsciously included this design element. From my experience with kuugan jaad, she is created on a subconscious or a conscious level. I can consciously add a kuugan jaad in a design, or she will appear as I create the design.
Kuugan jaad is present on masks and carved or painted box designs. She has the magic of showing up in any part of the design field. She is both positive and negative space, and sometimes she fills an element of a body of the design. I think of her as the spirit of the box design because she is on ninety-nine percent of these designs and she completes a design on a box.
In her most complete form she has seven parts: the mouth, beak, dimple, eye, ears, teeth and tri-neg (the triangular shape that is a three-pointed negative space). She shows up in two forms: in front view or in profile. Both can exist on a maximum of seven parts or a minimum of two parts.
Examples of three kuugan jaad are found in an argillite platter, attributed to Edenshaw, depicting the oral history of how Raven gave females their genitalia (fig. 42). One appears on the stern of the canoe, in profile, and has five parts: mouth, teeth, beak, eye and ear. The second is on the centre of the canoe, in front view, with four parts: beak, mouth, eye and ears. The third is on the kiidlaajuwaay portion of the canoe – the part that cuts the water – where she appears in profile, with three parts: mouth, eye and ear.
Kuugan jaad is like the salmon trout Head, in that they both embody the attributes of the Northwest Coast art: both are very recognizable and their variations are endless.
Charles Edenshaw Exhibition Catalogue
Vancouver Art Gallery, 2013