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Spirit dancing

Part of Northwest Coast Hall.

Ceremonial artifacts: a rattle and anklets made of deer hoofs, wood, and beads of the Cowichan people. Also a painted wood mask of the Quileute people.

 “Spirit dancing” is the name given to the winter dances which were a major feature of the ceremonial life of the Coast Salish. Most Coast Salish adults managed to establish a relationship with a supernatural being who taught them a song and a dance. Each year, during the winter dancing season, the supernatural beings possessed these persons, demanding the performance of the song and dance. Displayed here are some of the implements used in these dances.

 The spirit dancing of the Coast Salish included some features resembling the elaborate mythological dramas which comprised the winter ceremonies of the Northwest Coast tribes living further north. Among these were the special relationship of the dancer and a supernatural being, the idea of a definite ceremonial season, and the concept of a secret society composed of spirit dancers. The latter occurred only among the Coast Salish tribes who lived close to the Kwakiut, the originators of the idea of the secret society on the Northwest Coast.