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Impearls: HIC 8.1.7: Great dances

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Earthdate 2005-11-12

Great dances   by A. L. Kroeber

The Hupa made two ceremonies of the new year or first fruits type, both, of course, with the recitation of a mythological formula as the central esoteric element.  One of these was performed at Haslinding by the people of the Medilding division in spring at the commencement of the salmon run.  The first salmon of the season was caught and eaten.  In autumn, when the acorns first began to fall freely, a ceremony for the new crop was made for the northern division at Takimitlding, “acorn-ceremony place.”  The reciting formulist took the place of the divinity Tinukatsisdai.  The new acorns were eaten by the assembled people.  The stones used in cooking the gruel were put in a heap that has attained a volume of 200 cubic feet and must be adjudged to have been at least as many years in accumulating, or more if tradition is true that the river once swept the pile away.  A lamprey eel ceremony was also enacted at the northern end of the valley by a Takimitlding man each year.  It was a close parallel of the salmon “new year,” but much less important.

The Hupa held two Jumping dances and one Deerskin dance; in former times annually, they say; in more recent years biennially.  These are all associated with Takimitlding, and at least one if not two are connected with the first acorn ceremony there.

The Deerskin dance, honsitlchitdilya, “summer dance,” or hunkachitdilya, “along the river dance,” came about September.  The formula was spoken at Takimitlding, it appears, or begun there.  The dancers then went upstream in canoes, and on 10 successive afternoons and evenings danced at Howunkut, below Takimitlding, at Miskut, below Kinchuhwikut, upstream again opposite Cheindekotding, then at the foot of the valley, and finally at Nitltukalai, on the slope of the mountain overlooking the valley from the north.  On the fourth day, at Miskut, the dance was made in three large canoes abreast, which ten times approached the shore.  This spectacular performance, with its peculiar song, recalled to the old people their dead who formerly witnessed the dance with them, and they were wont to weep, deeply affected.

A Jumping dance, tunkehitdilya, “autumn dance,” was held, also for 10 or more days, half a month or so later, before a board fence or hut erected near the sacred sweat house at Takimitlding.  At least on the last day, the Medilding danced against the Takimitlding division, that is, in turn and in a competition as to excellence of song and step and particularly as to sumptuousness and value of the regalia displayed.

Another Jumping dance, haichitdilya, “winter dance,” seems to have come in spring.  It was not associated with any first-fruits ceremony, but seems to have had as its purpose the driving away of sickness.  Its season, however, is that of the first salmon rites of Medilding and of the Karok, and it is not unlikely that the dance once rested upon a similar ceremony made at Takimitlding.  For 10 nights the dance went on in the “great” or sacred dwelling house which was believed to have stood in that village since the days of the kihunai.  Then followed 10 days of open-air dancing at Miskut.  The apparel and conduct were the same as in the autumn Jumping dance.



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