Combing Out the Snakes: A Therapeutic Approach


The metaphor for combing out the twisted thoughts of Atataroh provides a window into the significance of hair combing amongst the Rotinohsyonni. Combing out the hair of a loved one was an act of complete compassion, and one meant to uplift the mind of both men and women.

Beyond the artistic composition lies a lesson intertwined in metaphor, identity and even a factual recollection of an event within Onkwehonwe world views. These are a visual representation of history.

Three Sisters

Material: Moose Antler

Artist: Stanley Hill

Every comb was made with the intention of use and not merely as a decorative. It isn’t the same concept as utilitarianism. Still, it is often misinterpreted, resulting in gratitude and honour for the known cartography of Wisk Nihonwentsake and part witnessed events.

The combs were very personal and often buried with our dead. Unfortunately, there exists a market for Onkwehonwe antiquities that was left unchecked for several decades that resulted in many private collection holders.


Material: Bone

Artist: Stanley Hill

As a result, the image of the “Indian” that white scholars manufactured has almost entirely missed the cultural implications of these stunning pieces and the relationship Onkwehonwe maintained with them and vice versa. 

Supporting the health of our minds was once dependant upon the act of loved ones compassionately combing out the twisted thoughts.

Revitalizing this practice is just as important as any modern therapy.