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4 / Ceremony and Society

Soul Recovery Ceremony paraphernalia
Soul Recovery Ceremony paraphernalia
Artist / Origin CHiXapkaid (Michael Pavel) (b. 1959); Kay-UAmihs (Winona Plant); and Sm3tcoom (Delbert Miller) (1944-2005), Skokomish Indian Nation, Southern Puget Salish, Pacific Northwest
Region: North America
Date 2008
Material Wood, paint, cedar bark, grass, imitation huckleberries
Medium: Other
Dimensions (boards) H: 60 in. (152 cm.), W: 10 in. (25 cm.), D: 1 in. (2.5 cm.) (each); (figures) H: 30 in. (76.2 cm) (each)
Location Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
Credit Photo by Arash Hoda

expert perspective

CHiXapkaid (Michael Pavel)Artist and Traditional Bearer for the tuwaduq Nation

Additional Resources

Berlo, Janet C., and Ruth B. Phillips. Native North American Art. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Brotherton, Barbara, ed. S’abadeb, The Gifts: Pacific Coast Salish Art and Artists. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008.

Duffek, K. The Transforming Image: Painted Arts of Northwest Coast First Nations. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007.

“S’abadeb—The Gifts: Pacific Coast Salish Art and Artists.” Exhibition page. Seattle Art Museum Web site. http//www.seattleartmuseum.org.

Stewart, H. Looking at Art of the Northwest Coast. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979.

Soul Recovery Ceremony paraphernalia

» CHiXapkaid (Michael Pavel) (b. 1959); Kay-UAmihs (Winona Plant); and Sm3tcoom (Delbert Miller) (1944-2005), Skokomish Indian Nation, Southern Puget Salish, Pacific Northwest

Ceremony, enacted on occasions ranging from name-giving to marriage to the honoring of the deceased, is viewed by the Salish people of the Pacific Northwest as a way of validating one another and reinforcing their cultural identity and sense of community.

At the same time, the Salish believe that certain knowledge must be closely guarded; if spread too widely, there is a risk that the power associated with that knowledge will be lost. Thus, a complete understanding of particular ceremonies and their attendant objects is restricted to certain highly-trained members of society.

The SHitsab, or the “Soul Recovery Ceremony” in English, is a complex ritual that has traditionally been considered extremely dangerous to participants. During this ceremony, expert healers journeyed to the First Land of the Dead (a’hLqW3hL) to retrieve the soul of an ill patient. Objects such as the ones seen here were created to ensure the success of the mission. Each object had a specific function in the ceremony. For instance, the red figures, known as earth dwarves, endowed those with the necessary shamanic training and knowledge with the power to recover the sH3li’, or soul. The cedar bark headbands worn by the figures were intended to bind together the minds of the travelers and keep them focused on their goal. Large painted boards called qWi’libixW (“spirit boards”), here painted white, with black and red designs, bore the power songs of the travelers. Other paraphernalia involved in the ceremony were bundles of grass arrows, cedar rope, a basket to carry enchanted huckleberries, and a doll to contain the recovered soul on the journey back to the Land of the Living.

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