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GROUSE

The Atlakim Dance includes 40 masks, making it the most elaborate of all Kwakwaka’wakw Dances. To complicate matters more, these masks are distributed between multiple families that are linked politically, and must preserve their political ties to present this dance to completion.

 

Grouse is the focal character of the Atlakim Dance, or “Leader of the Dance.” He finds himself caught in a snare, and has to barter his life with his captor, who happens to be a young man who has been exiled from his community. Grouse vows to introduce the young man to all of the animals in the forest, and promises him that these animals will gift him songs and dances. The young man agrees to free Grouse, who then calls all of the animals out of the forest through the “doorway,” which is the second mask to make an appearance in the Atlakim Dance. By the end of the dance, the young man has been bestowed with a bounty of treasure, and returns to his village to find his honor has been restored.

 

In another version of this story, the young man sets his snare trap and falls asleep, dreaming that he meets all of the animals in the forest. When he awakes, he feels like he has been sleeping for months. He finds Grouse in his snare, and releases him before returning home.

SOURCES

Cheryl Shearar Understanding Northwest Coast Art (2000)​

Campbell River Museum & Archives​

Conversations with Chris Cook II

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