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The Story of the Masks
Introductions The Potlatch The Masks Site Index
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T'lasala Mythical Creature Masks
Yakwiwe' - Peace Dance Frontlet and Ermine Cape
Kulus - Sister to Thunderbird
Kwankwanxwalige' - Thunderbird
Sapagaml - Echo Mask
T'lisalagaml - Sun Mask
'Makwalagaml - Moon Mask

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Sapagaml - Echo Mask
The Saa or Echo is a humanlike being that has the ability to imitate the sound or voice of any creature. She is found in a cave near Blunden Harbour. You will know the Echo is coming because she will imitate the sounds she hears. In the potlatch, the coming of Saa is very unique. Something will be shouted by one of the attendants, and it will be "echoed" from behind the screen or from outside the Big House or Gukwdzi. The startled attendants will begin to shout - with every utterance immediately imitated by Saa. The dance of Saa must represent all elements of the living world: air, land and sea, to show respect for our connection to our environment.

Legend:
All parts of the Saagam are carved from Red Cedar. The mask itself is made in five parts: the head is one unit, with the four ears carved separately and nailed on. The three mouthpieces for this mask are a raven, a bear and an eagle. Long tufts of black hair are pegged in to the sides and upper edge of the mask, and a large piece of flour sacking is nailed to the back edges. The Saagam can have several mouthpieces and thus become several different animals. The Echo dancer likes to keep the animal that she is going to be a secret from the audience, so she hides her face in her blanket, puts on her mouth piece and then displays the movements of the animal that she has become. Some Saagam have 10 to 12 different mouthpieces-the number of mouthpieces will depend upon what rites the family owns. The dancer appears at the left rear entrance to the house and dances in place rather than around the dance floor. At the appropriate point, he or she turns to an assistant who sits alongside the front row of singers and who conceals the mouthpieces in a container. When the dancer approaches the assistant, other attendants surround him/her, shielding the exchange of mouthpieces from the audience. As the mouthpiece is revealed, the dancer is transformed from one being into another, and the dancer moves in a manner which suggests the characteristics of the mouthpiece being exhibited. For instance, if the bear mouthpiece is in place, the dancer makes clawing motions with her hands. If a whale mouthpiece is shown, the dancer dives and breaches, like a swimming whale.

Song:
(Saa, song of •wamxudi, from the 'Namgis):
Here we go we are going to watch, the one who was meant to go around the floor at the house; it comes from as far as the mountains go and as deep into the earth as the roots of the trees go. There it goes with its many mouths now, the wonderful mouth of the Saa dance, this you are.
1. (There the raven is)
2. (There is the Sasquatch)
3. (There it is, the frog) etc.(•wamxudi had many mouthpieces)

Mask's Story:
This mask was originally owned by Bond Sound and was taken from him after the big potlatch in 1921. It was put into the collection of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. It was returned to the U'mista Cultural Centre 1979.
Sapagaml - Echo Mask (large version)
 
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