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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/653

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THE INDIANS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA.

the evening when he came into our house, the chief dancer, flourishing the flag and dancing in grotesque movements. The walls of the house shook under the heavy fists and sticks of the dancers who beat the time outside and now entered one by one. The two dancers next to enter had each a blanket tied round his loins, the upper part of the body being naked. A carved wooden snake with two heads—the fabulous Sisiutl—was tied to the waist, and about their necks they wore rings of hemlock-branches. In the right hand they carried two sticks ornamented with gay ribbons; in the left they flourished bows and arrows. Their faces were painted black, and their hair was kept back by a tie of seal-skins with a bunch of red feathers attached to it. These were followed by two men wrapped up in white blankets and wearing stuffed mink-skins as head-dresses. The next dancer carried a rattle in his hands, which he hid under his dancing-apron. Then the rest of the dancers rushed intc the room and formed a wide circle around the two men carrying the snake-carvings. Now began a wild song in which the chorus occasionally joined. As soon as the chorus fell in, the minks and the man carrying the rattle rushed into the center of the circle and jumped about in the wildest fashion. The women and children who stood by became greatly excited, and it looked very droll to see the little ones, who could hardly stand on their legs, dancing and imitating the motions of the performers. After the first round was finished, a new cry was heard outside, the door opened, and in came twelve boys, all naked, their little bodies whitened with lime, and all kinds of figures painted on them in red and black. Their hair was rubbed with a mixture of oil and lime, and looked like the bristles of a brush. The leader of the boys was an elderly man, who remained standing in the entrance of the house with uplifted hands, and directing the boys by rhythmical motions of his arms and his body. The figures of these dances were really artistic and symmetrical. At the end of the performance all left the house in grand procession and made a terrible noise before the entrance of every house of the village. If the owner's wife made the fire blaze up by pouring oil into it, this was an invitation for them to come in and perform a short dance. Where all remained dim and dark they passed by.

This dance had been invented when the daughter of the chief of a neighboring tribe married the young chief of this village. When the approach of the bride was announced, the men connected three boats by heavy planks, thus forming an extensive platform. They went on this raft to meet the strangers and welcomed them dancing this dance on the water. The boats of the young woman were loaded with her dower: boxes filled with blankets, valuable copper plates, and the gyiserstal—the latter being a heavy board, cut so as to represent a human jaw-bone. The front is set with sea-otter teeth. This object is given to the bridegroom, who thus obtains the right to command his wife to talk or to be silent.