Eiteljorg Musuem Blog

The Git Hoan experience

by User Not Found | Jun 18, 2012

For some reason, the goose down always makes me giggle. As it fills the air then settles on and around the audience, I can’t stop smiling. The audience is told that the floating down is a statement of peace and, in that moment, it makes perfect sense. In their regalia and intricately carved masks, the dancers share that sense of peace as they share their culture. Performances by the Git Hoan Dancers are experiences. And, although I’ve been lucky to be part of the audience for smaller versions of the group here in Indy, it’s been over fourteen years since the Eiteljorg has hosted a large Northwest Coast dance group. I’m beyond excited to finally see the whole group at this year’s Indian Market and Festival.

Led by world-renowned Tsimshian carver and culture bearer David A. Boxley, the members of Git Hoan Dancers share a commitment to preserving cultural traditions. They perform songs and dances of the Tsimshian people from the Pacific coastal areas of northern British Columbia and southeastern Alaska. Boxley has been a leader in the effort to reclaim, revive and recreate Tsimshian cultural practices that were nearly eradicated in the late 1800s in an effort of forced cultural assimilation. Since many traditional songs were lost, Git Hoan performs original compositions that are influenced by the old songs. Boxley says, “Artists from long ago inspire new generations of Indians to carry on traditions. I am determined and dedicated to help revitalize and carry on the rich culture of my tribe: I want my sons and other young Indian people to be proud of their heritage.”

All of this is done with a sense of honor and fun. Git Hoan is especially fond of performing for children, who are enraptured by the animal stories told in the songs and dances about the killer whale, deer and raven. Okay, not just children. Adults are pretty enraptured, too. By the time the goose down flies, creating a fluffy white wonderland, I know I will have jumped in surprise at the snapping raven; gasped in amazement at the artistry of the masks; learned a good lesson from an animal story and laughed as the dancers teach kids some of their moves.


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