Native Americans
Native American Masks

Native American Masks
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.44

     challenging words:    facial, popularity, thunderbird, transformation, realistic, exotic, artistic, traditional, symbolize, northwest, tricky, unique, meaning, friendship, mystery, easily
     content words:    Native Americans, Native American, In Native American, Killer Whale, Northwest Coast Indians, New World, Northwestern Native American

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Native American Masks
By Colleen Messina

1     Masks can be lots of fun. They can be scary, silly, or fancy. Even a paper bag can be made into a mask. You probably have worn masks for Halloween and had people wonder "who is that masked kid?" Native Americans liked the mystery of masks, too, and used them for many reasons.
2     Native American masks sometimes represented an important person in the tribe. These kinds of masks were called portrait masks. Other masks were used in ceremonies for secret societies. Native Americans had war societies and even shaman societies. Many masks were used in potlatch ceremonies. During a potlatch ceremony, the chief of one tribe gave a present to the chief of another tribe. Each chief wanted to give the best gifts and have the most exotic masks. Dancers wore these masks to tell a story during the potlatch ceremonies.
3     Native Americans made masks out of many materials. Many were made out of wood, but leather and even gourds were also used. Indians on the northwest coast carved masks out of red cedar, and they made three different kinds of masks. The first kind was called a simple face mask because it was made out of a single piece of wood. A mechanical mask took more work. It had strings or hinges so its eyes could open and close. The last kind of mask was the most complicated. It was called a transformation mask. It had an outer mask which opened up to show an inner mask. These heavy masks could only be worn by a strong person in the tribe.

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