TITLE: Cherokee Booger Mask
GENERAL REGION: North America
COUNTRY: United States of America
SUBREGION: North Carolina
DESCRIPTION: Booger mask with rattlesnake
MAKER: Allen Long (1917-1983), Cherokee, North Carolina
CEREMONY: Booger Dance
AGE: ca. 1970s
MAIN MATERIAL: wood
OTHER MATERIALS: pigment; leather strap
In the Eastern Cherokee Nation, the booger (tsu’nigadu’li) dance forms an important part of the winter celebration to discourage evil spirits from disrupting the coming growing season. The boogers themselves represent the evil spirits, and they traditionally portrayed grotesque faces seeking to fight, chase women, and create general havoc. Following colonization, the booger dancers focused their misdeeds especially on satirizing the insolence, foolishness, and lust of European colonists toward the Cherokee women.
Booger masks could be made of wood, gourds, or carved wasp nests. This specific mask was made by a famed carver, Allen Long, and ridicules the cluelessness of the invader, who has a rattlesnake of his head without even knowing it.
For more on Cherokee masked dance, see Frank G. Speck & Leonard Broom, Cherokee Dance and Drama (University of Oklahoma Press 1951).