by Skip Saunders
Yellow Cedar, paint, bark (23Lx7Hx3W)
Hummingbird – The most valuable possession of a kusiut (secret society member) is the dance which he has the right to perform, but each member of the society has, in addition, a somewhat peculiar object, sometimes material and sometimes intangible, known as a skusiut or yeaxmax. With every call, this possession of the dancer’s comes automatically to him. There is no connection between the patron and the prerogative; for example, one kusiut who has one of the sons of Atquntam as the patron, has as the prerogative, the Hummingbird.
If a dancer decides to display a material prerogative, he consults with a carpenter before the coming of his call and asks him to make, for example, a wooden Hummingbird. On the night of tsixtamem, when all the kukusiut are present, the bird is seen to move across the back wall of the house. The dancer rushes to it and appears to catch it, in reality hiding it beneath his clothing. Carefully holding his hands cupped, as if clutching something of great value, the dancer moves to the centre of the house and returns the bird to the land above by throwing his hands upward while the kukusiut call out hoip.