Northwest Native American Ceremonial Masks

Published on October 18, 2011 by Amy

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Northwest Coast Bella Bella Ceremonial Mask
Northwest Coast Bella Bella
Ceremonial Mask

Ceremonial masks have played significant roles in many native tribal cultures around the world. Several of the most vivid, colorful and striking American Indian ancestral masks come from West Coast American Indian art created by the Northwest Native people. These groups are located in the region from Oregon that stretch all the way through Washington state and British Columbia all the way to southern Alaska next to the Pacific coast.

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Types of Ceremonial Masks

Northwest Coast Native American ceremonial masks portray many different types of humans and animals including mythical creatures from Northwest Native legends. Some of the masks were portrait masks where they were created to represent particular persons. Animal masks had exceptional denotation for specific clans since all members of a tribe were apparently descended from particular animals. There are three main types of masks, which vary in their complexity. The distinct face mask is the simplest ceremonial masks of the three and is carved and engraved from a piece of red cedar wood.

Another type of ceremonial mask is a motorized mask with movable parts. This type of mask was essentially created after the Europeans introduced the Northwest Natives to strings and hinges. Northwest Natives soon utilized this European technology to allow the eyes and mouths of masks to open and close.

A third type of Northwest Native American Ceremonial Masks is the conversion mask which is also the most multifaceted type of ceremonial mask. This type of mask has an external mask that can open up to expose an internal second mask form. Occasionally this inner mask structure can also unlock to reveal a third mask formation.

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