Tsimshian Git Hoan Dancers

This past Saturday all of town was invited to attend a potlatch in honor of the passing of two local elders.  The evening was filled with oral history, singing, drumming, dancing and eating.  One of the Native dance groups that preformed was the Tsimshian Git Hoan (People of the Salmon,) led by David Boxley, a world renowned carver and “culture bearer” of the Tsimshian, originally from Metlakatla, Alaska.

The wooden masks and the dance regalia that they wore were amazing, hopefully the pictures can speak for themselves regarding the intricacies of the carving, the painting and the textile pieces.

Above are the crows who cawed and snapped their beaks in time with the drums.  And below goose down floats from traditional head pieces of the chiefs, a statement of peace.

One theme that echoed throughout the night’s speakers  was the importance of reclaiming cultural traditions, breathing life back into cultural practices that have been lost.   For the Native groups of Southeast Alaska this includes once again holding  potlatches, learning and using their languages, their songs & dances,and once again carving and erecting totem poles.

All of these activities were banned and outlawed in the late 1800’s by missionaries and government agents from the US & Britain, in an effort of forced cultural assimilation.  This ban was only lifted in the 1950’s, leaving a multi-generational gap of cultural knowledge.  It seems there is great effort in some native communities to revive and recreate these cultural practices.

A Villianous Ancestor of the Mosquito

I know so little about these historical events and cultural practices.  I was intrigued to learn that a  potlatch  was/is a custom that was/is only practiced by the native groups of the Pacific Northwest, Coastal British Columbia  & Southeast Alaska: The Tlingit, the Haida, the Tsimshian, the Nuxalk, the Makah, the Nuu-chah-nulth, the Kwakwaka’ wakw and the Coast Salish people.   It is an event of immense meaning and importance, that I look forward to learning more about.

Mouse Woman trying to warn the Berry Picker

I hope you enjoy the pictures from their performance, I hope I have the chance to see them dance again.

The Wolf

The Eagle

The Mask within the Eagle Mask

2 thoughts on “Tsimshian Git Hoan Dancers

  1. Shelly– great posting, what beautiful artistry. The loss of traditional cultures in the name of ‘progress’ has only served to tear people from their roots. I am more familiar with how this has happened as a result of the Cultural Revolution, and it is sad to see that it occurs in so many places around the world and through history.

    It is wonderful to see examples of the resurgence and revival of traditional practices and values.

    Thanks for sharing!
    -d

  2. The masks and clothing are amazing. The Eagle mask within a mask knocked my socks off! Beautiful ceremony and beautiful pictures. thanks for sharing Shelly!

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