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Tsimshianic masks

Part of Northwest Coast Hall.


Masks were worn by participants in Tsimshianic (referred to in the hall as Tsimshian) ceremonies. Ceremonies featuring property distributions (potlatches) were held when a child’s ears were pierced; when names, crests, or ceremonial prerogatives were transferred; when houses were built,and when totem poles were erected. The transfer of supernatural power from an adult to a child was the occasion of a major ceremony. The adult danced, sang the songs associated with his spirit protector, enticed it to him, and symbolically hurled it into children who, with their mothers, were hidden under a mat in the corner of the house. Following the ceremonial transfer of supernatural power, a person was eligible for initiation in to secret societies.