Booger dance

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Roger Cain (United Keetoowah Band mask-maker) showing a gourd booger mask (left) and a buffalo mask (right)

The Booger Dance (Cherokee: tsu'nigadu'li, "many persons' faces covered over"[1]) is a traditional dance of the Cherokee tribe, performed with ritual masks. It is performed at night-time around a campfire, usually in late fall or winter.[2]

Before the dance begins, the male Cherokee performers, known as "Boogers", discreetly leave the party. Booger masks, are colorful masks that represented evil spirits. Booger masks were made from wood or hornets nests and were originally made as part of the Booger Dance, a winter celebration that ensured evil spirits could not disrupt the coming growing season. The Boogers also represent the malevolent spirits of those who oppose the Cherokee. They act in a stereotypically lewd manner by chasing the females around, grabbing them if possible, to satirize and ridicule what is seen as the non-Cherokee's predatory lust for the Cherokee. The dance and accompanying music are traditionally believed to drive away or offer protection against the inimical spirits, and those in whom they dwell, striking fear into their hearts, while providing comedic relief for the tribal members. Eventually, these masks came to resemble the faces of the White trespassers.

The masks could be fashioned from gourds, animal skins, or buckeye wood. The dance has also been the subject of much scholarship.[3]


  1. ^ Michael J. Zogry (2010), Anetso, the Cherokee Ball Game: At the Center of Ceremony and Identity, The University of North Carolina Press. pp. 122–123. ISBN 0807833606
  2. ^ J. T. Garrett (2011), The Cherokee Full Circle: A Practical Guide to Ceremonies and Traditions. p. 35 ff. ISBN 1879181959.
  3. ^ Cherokee Nation – Booger Masks for Kids « Archived 2013-10-04 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2015-10-30.