In the Land of the War Canoes


1972 / 47 minutes

Directed by
Edward S. Curtis
Country of production
Canada United States

The film was made in 1914 by Edward Curtis. The plot concerns the efforts of a young man, Motana, son of a great chief, to obtain a bride and how he is thwarted by a wicked sorcerer. Many of the conventions of early film narrative can be identified in the film's structure and organisation.

The film vanished and was completely forgotten and only rediscovered in 1962 by Bill Holms at the Field Museum in Washington. In 1972 the film was restored and re-edited by Holms, David Gerth and George Quimby, with soundtrack of songs and dialogue by the Kwakiutl. The name of the new version was changed to 'In the Land of the War Canoes' when the Kwakiutl objected to Curtis' original title. Although the original material had suffered some nitrate damage over the years, the film is an artistic triumph by one of the finest photographers and an invaluable ethnographic resource of a vanishing culture. The war canoes and totems, built by the Kwakiutl for the film, represent some of the largest great work of their traditional art.

Language and subtitles
Original Version with English Subtitles
North America
Archival material / Museum displays Marriage Film / Photography / Mass media