Eagle

by Skip Saunders
(Nuxalk)

Red Cedar, paint, bark. (10”Lx13”Hx12”W)

$2850

Eagle – One of the important rites carried out at a potlatch in the past was the return of a dead ancestor to visit the living. If the deceased’s first ancestor had been an eagle, in that guise the figure will appear – an eagle mask on his head, and his whole body, except perhaps his feet, covered by a large blanket thickly covered with eagle down and furnished with painted wooden wings. Among those who accompany him there is always a man with a whistle, the note of which simulates the cry of an eagle, and this is sounded at intervals. The actor bends in imitation of a bird and shakes himself, lifting his head and opening the movable beak by means of a hidden string, while the whistle sounds. Then he stoops down and hops a few steps eagle fashion. The actor displays considerable dramatic ability, and the performance is strikingly effective in the large, plank built house, illumined only by a smoky central fire which casts flickering shadows over the intently watching audience. (McIlwraith)


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