Bella Coola Midwinter Rites

Bella Coola Midwinter Rites

November-February
The kusiut is a traditional masked dancing society of the Bella Coola, Kimsquit, and other Indian tribes of coastal British Columbia. The society performed dramatic curing dances during the midwinter ceremonial season, which began with the opening rite in November and ended in February. Most involved feats of juggling as well as masked mime. Some were used by initiates to prove that they had received a supernatural "call" to join the society.
Among the more frightening was the series of five kusiotem dances: the stomach-cutting dance, the beheading dance, the drowning dance, the burning dance, and the fungus dance. All involved elaborate masks and deception. The beheading dance, for example, was simulated with a false head, and the drowning dance used a dummy and a trap door.
Nowadays membership in the kusiut is open to all men, though the number of spectators is decreasing. As a result, the society's status is deteriorating.
SOURCES:
DictFolkMyth-1984, pp. 596, 946, 963, 1186
EncyNatAmerRel-2001, p. 333