Native American or Indian Dance
I. During the 1920s and 30s Native America religious dances were outlawed by United States and Canadian governments. Tribes created new dances which could be performed in public legally.
A. Fancy dance, Pan-Indian, Fancy Feather or Fancy War dance is a style of dancing originated by the Ponca tribe in an attempt to preserve the culture and religion. It is loosely based on the War dance and was allowed to be performed for visitors to the reservations, but today is used in tribal ceremonies as well.
1. Mens fancy dance is flashy and performed in bright, colorful costumes and requires strength and stamina.
2. The womans fancy shawl dance represents the opening of a cocoon when the butterfly emerges. The shawl is the most extravagant piece of the costume.
B. The Gourd dance is based on a legend or a story from the Kiowa tribe of a young man who had been separated from the rest of the tribe. Exhausted after many days of travel, the young man approached a hill and heard an unusual kind
of singing coming from the other side. He saw a red wolf singing and dancing on its hind legs. The man listened to the songs all afternoon and through the night and when the morning came, the wolf spoke to him and told him to take the dance and the songs back to the Kiowa people. The howl at the end of each gourd dance song is a tribute to the red wolf.
1. The Kiowa consider this dance as their dance since it was given to them by the Red Wolf and although it has spread to many other tribes and societies, most of them do not have the blessings of the Kiowa Elders. The Kiowa gourd dance society only allows Indians or half blood Indians to perform this dance.
a. The dress or costume for the gourd dance includes the gourd or rattle which is tied around the waist. A ground blanket or vest is worn over the shoulders and has two colors: red and blue with the blue over the right shoulder and the red over the left shoulder to symbolize the heart.
C. Native American Hoop Dance is a form of storytelling dance using anywhere from one to thirty hoops as props and is generally performed by a solo dancer with
the hoops creating shapes or formations to represent various animals.
1. The hoop itself represents the never ending circle of life and some of the animals are the butterfly, the eagle, the snake, and the coyote.
2. The hoops are very small in diameter, about one to two and a half feet and are made of plastic piping wrapped in colorful tape or of wood and are made to interlock to allow the dancer to extend them from the body.
3. Native America hoop dance has been formally recognized as a cultural heritage and as many as 80 dancers perform in a competition each year in Arizona which draws as many as 10,000 spectators.
4. Originally only men performed the hoop dance by in recent years, women have become active participants in the hoop dance competitions.
D. Rain dancing is a ceremonial dance performed to create rain and to protect the harvest.
1. The Cherokee tribe performed rain dances to both cause rain and to cleanse the evil spirits from the earth. The legend of the tribe holds that the rain contains the spirits of past tribal chiefs, who went falling, battle the evil spirits in the
transitional plane between our reality and the spirit world.
2. The term Rain Dance came into being during the dance of Native American relocation and the restrictions put upon the indigenous people by the American Government banning certain religious ceremonies including the Ghost Dance and the Sun Dance. In order to prevent prosecution the Windigokan told the federal government the dance being performed was not the Sun Dance but the Rain Dance in order to avoid prosecution or federal intervention.
E. Stomp Dance is performed by various tribes and is a ceremony containing both religious and social meaning.
1. The Stomp Dance is an English term which refers to the shuffle and stomp movements in the dance. The translation of the dance by the Muskogee tribe means drunken, crazy, or inspirited dance.
2. The performance space for the Stomp Dance among Muscogee Creeks and Four Mothers Society members is an elevated square platform with the flat edges of the square facing the cardinal directions. This is referred to as the Square Ground which is encircled by a ring-mound of earth and in the center of this is the ceremonial fire which is called by many names including Grandfather fire.
Outside the circle of earth around the Square Ground are the communitys clan-houses and are casually referred to as camps and depending on the financial situation of the community might be nice cottages or shanties. Dinner is prepared before the dance and during the evening, guests are welcomed to eat leftovers. The prepared foods are typically corn break, mashed potatoes, dumplings, hominy, frybread and numerous traditional dishes.
a. The chief speaker calls the people to the dance for each round and the order of the dancers is male-female-male-female in a continuous circle. The song is lead by the leader and are performed in call and response form. The dancers circle the fire in counterclockwise direction with slow stomping steps to the rhythm created by the women stomping with their shell shakers. As the dance progresses, it can include hundreds of people.
b. Participants or visitors to a stomp dance cannot be under the influence of alcohol or dugs. They also cannot have partaken of either for a prescribed period of time before or after the dance. Photography is not allowed at ceremonial dances and Indians do not discuss the details of the ceremonial dances with non-Indians.
3. During the off-season, Stomp Dances are sometimes performed indoors to avoid the winter cold and some societies perform Stomp Dances for educational demonstrations which are considered to be secular Stomp Dances.
F. Sun Dance is a religious ceremony practiced by many Native American and First Nation peoples and include the singing of traditional songs, praying, fasting and in some cases, piercing of the skin of young men on the chest, arms or back.
1. The object of the Sun Dance practice is to make a sacrifice to the Great Mystery and to pray while connected with the Tree of Life, a direct connection to the Creator. A flesh offering in the form of a piercing is given as part of a prayer for the benefit of ones family and community.
a. The Canadian Government outlawed that feature of the Sun Dance in 1895 and the United States Government followed suit in 1904. Both governments have since lifted the ban with Canada in 1951 and America in 1970. It is now annually practiced by young men on many western reserves and reservations. The lifting of the ban came with better understanding and respect for indigenous traditions.
G. Turkey Tailfeather Woman was a Dakota woman who is said to have given the Drum Dance to the Anishainaabe people. The Drum Dance is a set of spiritual beliefs that center around the Turkey Tailfeather Woman and her escape from the American Military after which she built a large drum while in hiding. The drum used in the Drum Dance is the forerunner of the large drum used in modern pow wows.
H. The ghost dance was a religious movement used in numerous Native American Belief systems. The basis of the Ghost Dance is the circle which has been used for since prehistoric times in Native America Cultures.
1. The prophet Wovoka, took the Anglo name of Jack Wilson and was to believed to have experienced a vision during a solar eclipse on January 1. 1889. Prior to this, a devastating typhoid epidemic had struck the Indian population and this and other European diseases killed approximately one-tenth of the population. Many of the Native Americans were unable to continue their nomadic life-style and sought employment in Virginia City.
a. In his vision, Jack Wilson proclaimed that he had been given the Ghost Dance
through his communion with God and if this five-day dance was performed in the proper intervals, the performers would secure their happiness and hasten the reunion of the living and the deceased.
b. Jack Wilson proclaimed that if every Indian in the West danced the new dance to hasten the event all evil in the world would be swept away, leaving a renewed Earth filled with food, love and faith. Ghost dance has also been called Spirit Dance or Dance in a Circle due to the different interpretations of the words from different tribes.
1. As increased intervention by the American Government ensued to educate the Indians in cultivating their lands for a new lifestyle, circumstances of low rainfall and intense heat had not been taken into consideration and irrigation had not been provided, resulting in a crop failure.
a. Increased performances of the Ghost Dance ritual ensued and the supervising agents of the Bureau of Indian Affairs became alarmed and the Leader, Kicking Bear was forced to leave Standing Rock but the dances continued. Spiritual Leader, Sitting Bull was then to have been said to be the real leader as the dances did not abate. Thousands of U.S. troops were deployed to the reservation and
Sitting Bull was arrested on the reservation for failing to stop his people from practicing the Ghost Dance. Fire broke out and resulted in deaths on both sides including Sitting Bull.
b. Big Foot and his people were forced to relocate and the U.S. confiscated weapons of the Indians and during this time, fire was opened and resulted in the massacre at Wounded Knee Creek with 25 U.S. soldiers dead, many killed by friendly fire, and 153 Sioux, many of them women and children.
2. Public outrage over this incident in the United States played a role in the reinstatement of the precious treatys terms between the Native American and the United States government including full rations and more monetary compensation for lands taken away. Twenty of the United States soldiers received Medals of Honor for their part in the battle.