The large nostrils and shorter snout and ears distinguish the Grizzly from the u'liga
n or wolf, as does the fact that the Grizzly Bear is a mask rather than a headdress. Most grizzly bear regalia features paws made from real bear claws, or if those are not available a substitution of petrified whalebone or wood is also used.
The Grizzly Bear dance is a high-ranking dance originating from the 'Nak'waxda'x
w of Ba'as or Blunden Harbour. The members of the Na
n society kept order during the hama‰sa ceremony, working together with the Nu‡a
ma‡. In earlier days the initiates of the Na
n society were authorized to punish with death those who behaved inappropriately during the hama‰sa ceremony.
The grizzly bear dancer and the nu‡a
ma‡ worked together in this capacity; both were powerful helpers of the hamat'sa during the Winter Ceremony.
The initiate into the society sought to frighten the audience with his potential power, as his role in the ceremony was to act as a policeman enforcing proper behavior. Another responsibility was to guard the ceremonial house. The grizzly bear, Na
n, or Ga
la is the most dangerous and fearsome animal known to the Kwakwa
'wakw. Even the powerful killer whale, although having canoe travelers almost entirely at his mercy, is ordinarily not aggressive toward them. It is no wonder that the great bear is an important crest animal on the Northwest Coast and that he appears prominently in the art. In Kwakwa
'wakw ceremony Na
n appears in both major ritual complexes, the ˜se…a and the T'‡asa
Dance and Regalia:
n dances upright in a swaying motion displaying his claws and waving them around for all to see, recreating the lumbering movements of the dangerous and fierce grizzly bear. His characteristic poses and his movements are reproduced convincingly in dramatic dance form.
Some families also wear the bear hide as a cape during the tamed hama‰sa. He may wear a complete costume of grizzly hide with the head becoming a mask or will use a carved wooden mask attached to the hide. When unmasked, the grizzly dancer wears cedar bark ornaments with mitten-like paws of a bear or made up of fur with long wooden claws.
The original owner of this mask was Joseph Speck, of the –awit'sis tribe from "alugwis or Turnour Island. It was returned to U'mista Cultural Centre in 1980.