West Coast Native Americans
Today, I wanted to discuss West Coast or Pacific Coast Native American art, products and traditions. In the past week, I have attended an East Coast Native american ceremony and a West Coast Native ceremony and was able to observe major differences in style. To see videos of those ceremonies, please check out my Facebook page and like it to see more upcoming videos!
East Coast/Prairie Native Pow wow
If you have checked out the Ceremonies tab in the menu, you have probably seen the page about Pow Wows. What you can see on this page, is a description and images of an East Coast/Prairie style Pow wow. As you can see, costumes are very elaborate and colorful. Big drums are played and singing is deep, piercing and seems to come from the soul. People sitting around the drums beat it while singing and others dance following the beat. Women can wear jingle dresses, or have ornate colorful blankets that they twirl around as they dance. Men join them, stomping their feet. The energy is high and people dance from their heart, set free by the music.
West coast style
The West Coast Native American style is quite different. I am including here a few pictures of art from the West Coast. As one can see, animals are prominently used and represented in a more abstract but still intricate manner. Although still ornate, the West Coast style is more subdue, colors mostly consisting of red, black, white and blue. Animals and birds, such as the raven, the eagle, the wolf and the bear are used to tell a story. They are represented within ceremonies with masks, capes and costumes. Dances have a story oftentimes involving those animals. If you watch the videos on my Facebook page, you will be able to see this.
West Coast celebration
The West Coast ceremony I attended last night, was meant to be a family celebration. The troupe dancing and singing included men, women as well as young children, all equally participating in the celebration. Some women even had young babies strapped to them as they were dancing. Such a beautiful sight! As it was explained, youngsters are encouraged to learn the dances and songs, as they will be the ones passing down the traditions and the stories. With teaching songs, children are taught the dance and rhythm of the music.
As you can see from the picture above, individual drums rather than big drums are used. As in the tradition of a Pow Wow, dancers and singers make their entry, women sweeping the floor with their capes, as a way to bring good energy to the floor. Each song has a different meaning (as it is the case with any native song) and a specific dance. Last night, specific women and men dances were performed. Men and women alternate on the dance floor, representing either a raven, an eagle, a wolf or a snake (animals can vary according to the dance. I was once a frog….). It’s almost a mating dance, where a mate can be chosen based in part on their dancing abilities (which can infer to their strength). Although songs still come from the heart, they are softer. One has to listen to both type of music to fully appreciate the difference between the East Coast and West Coast musical style. Once again, I encourage you to look at the videos on my Facebook page.
I also want to mention the location of most ceremonies discussed here: the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Center society, a wonderful venue that provides culturally relevant free activities. You can also click on the picture above for more information.
In the spirit of the last night celebration, I had First Nations inspired nails. Enjoy 🙂 Click on the pictures to see where I get them done!
Or once again, check out this site for Pacific Coast style jewelry and other products.
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