Native American Dances: Celebrating Tradition and Spirituality

Categories: Native Americans

There are many different types of dance that bring about a culture. One culture who has many different types of dance that promote different aspects of the culture are the Native Americans. Native Americans use many different types of dance for many reasons. There are several types of Native American dance these include: buckskin dance, cloth dance, fancy dance, gourd dance, grass dance, green corn dance, jingle dance, pow wow dance, straight dance, and traditional dance. All of these types of dance have a meaning and are full of tradition within the culture (Dances 2000).

Buckskin dance is a traditional form of Native American dance that originally was reserved for women in an elite class. These women included the princesses and the ladies, who were in leadership rules, however today this dance is open to all women in the tribe. The dance was traditionally a dance for Northern tribes however today it is also danced by the Southern tribes. This dance is typically done by the dancer standing in one area where one dances to a light beat of a drum.

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The dance is known for showing “dignity and grace. ” There are some differences between the Northern and Southern tribes.

The Northern tribes have a dance that is upbeat whereas the Southern tribes dance a much slower version of the same dance. Part of the dance is known for the dancer standing and saluting the drum with a fan in what has been quoted as “the catching of the spirit of the drum” (Ladies Traditional Buckskin Dance).

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Not only do women in the tribe dance the buckskin dance but they also dance the cloth dance. The cloth dance is a traditional dance in the Native American Culture. This dance was originally because Native Americans would pick up the cloth that the settlers would dump behind them.

This means that the dance was originally done to celebrate the finding of the new cloth and continues to be done to celebrate the cloth as well. During this style of dance a particular dress is worn that is more intricate than the dress that is typically worn by the Native American women when dancing or participating in other forms of activity while within the tribe. The entire way that the ladies are dressed is important. The outfit starts with the moccasins that are boots and can be beaded in more elaborate tribes.

Then there is a tee dress worn over a slip, the dresses do vary in type as it is made based on the region and the cloth that is available in that area. Then an apron is worn with leather Concho belt to keep it in place. Then a breast plate is secured with ribbons and a neckerchief or choker is typically worn as well. In many cases the ladies will wear jewelry but it is not required and the ladies are allowed to style their hair as they wish (Glazner, Solis, and Weinman). The fancy dance is different based on whether or not a man or a woman is dancing.

If the woman is dancing then it is not a traditional dance and its origin was during the 1950’s and 1960’s as a tourist and competition dance. The dance became more popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s. This is a dance that women had fought to be able to do as it was something that was a more traditional and stylistic approach to dance in the tribe. The dance is performed with a shawl and sometimes is referred to as a fancy shawl dance. The dance is performed with a shawl and the shawl has a splash of color, fringe and butterfly wings as the steps are performed as though the dancer were “dancing on air.

” The butterfly on the shawl is an important theme. For the men the fancy dance is the “brightest and fastest” of all of the dance styles. The fancy dance for men might also be called the feather dance. The outfit is very showy and there are feathers, fluffs and colors in many places as the outfit has the goal of being the brightest and the loudest. Typically the fancy dance is a young man’s dance. This dance style is more freestyle and is very fast paced. The dance style is sometimes referred to as the “ruffle” which is a “kind of shaking, ruffling and blinding footwork” (Glazner, Solis, and Weinman).

The gourd dance is not what is actually called a pow wow dance. In reality this dance is a form of entrance during which the “gourd sings gourd songs for the dancer to dance. ” This dance does not have an elaborate style of dress. During this dance the dancer only wears pants and a long sleeve shirt and carries a gourd and a rattle with himself. This dance is a very simple dance and is performed outside of the arena during which the dancers “shake their rattles and lift their heels with the beat of the drum.

” When the song reaches a specific point the dancers “slowly dance away from their spot” (Glazner, Solis, and Weinman). The next type of dance that is practiced by Native Americans is the grass dance. The grass dance is a dance that is rich in the history of the Native American people and a very old dance. Basically the grass dance originated as a way to flatten the grass prior to a pow wow, however the name does not come from this action but rather from the sweet grass that is used to be woven into the dancer’s belts. The dance is very fluid and resembles a swaying grass as the dancers all move together.

This dance is thought to be one of the most beautiful dances and it is meant for everyone. The dancers also wear antennas which are attached to a long thin wire with a fluff on top of them. Typically these dancers wear a type of jogging pants rather than leather leggings and these are modified with fringe that moves when dancing. These dancers also wear an apron and a cape with the fringe (Glazner, Solis, and Weinman). Another type of Native American dance is the green corn dance. The green corn dance is performed throughout the year.

It is however most typically performed during the month of May during which time it is marking the new year for the Native American people, this is typical to the beginning of January in many other cultures. Most Native American tribes observe different holidays surrounding corn. These holidays include the planting ceremony, the harvest ceremony and the green corn ceremony. The green corn ceremony is held before the corn is ripe and is to celebrate the upcoming harvest. This ceremony was dedicated to the god that watched over the plants and was considered to be an “annual rite of renewal and purification.

” In the beginning it was considered to be a “crime against the gods” to touch or eat the corn that was newly ripened until the green corn dance had taken place. The green corn dance can vary in length and has several components. This dance includes stomp dances, special rites for the young men who have come of age and then the ceremony also has some ball games. The basis of the green corn dance includes drinking an emetic or purgative, which is something that will make you vomit. This was a standard in the green corn dance. Typically the drink was a tea made from casine or a tea made from a shrub.

The Native Americans called this drink the “black drink” and they believed that by drinking it the night of the dance and ceremony that they could purify themselves in both a physical and spiritual way. The Native Americans would then fast and eat only the green corn and then they would fast another day before having a great feast. It was a “common belief that anyone who did not take the Black Drink could not safely eat the new corn and would get sick during the year. They also felt that this time would make them more powerful warriors.

Another powerful custom during the green corn dance was ceremonial scratching. During this time deep scratches were inflicted on the Natives bodies especially their backs (Thompson 2003). Another form of Native American dance is the jingle dance. The jingle dance is considered to be the “most exotic” of the women’s dances. There is a strong base for this dance on a legend. “As the story goes, there once was an elder in a tribe who was very ill and was thought to die soon. As he lay sick in his bed half asleep, half awake, he received a vision.

In it, a young woman came to him and showed him a dress unlike any he had ever seen. She said that it was a medicine dress that would make him whole again. With that, the girl taught him what to use and how to make the dress. Once that was done, the young woman taught the old man the songs that would make the medicine come alive in the dress. Teach this dance to your granddaughters, the girl said, and you again will be well. When the sun rose the next morning, the old man called his three young granddaughters to him and told them of the vision he had had in the night.

When they heard the entire story, they quickly ran to gather all of the things they would need to create the healing dress. As soon as the ceremony had been completed, a miracle occurred as the grandfather’s fever broke. It is said that he lived to guide the family for many more years as a result of the healing powers of the visionary dress. ” This dress is no longer thought to have physical medicinal properties but it is said by those who have witnessed this dance that the dress is like “medicine for the soul” (Glazner, Solis, and Weinman).

There is also the pow wow dance. The pow wow dance is the overall style of dance that is performed. The pow wow is also what is considered to be a ceremonial dance. The ceremonial dance is something that is used in Native American culture for both good and bad and is something that can be used to celebrate. The pow wow dances are known for their pageantry of colors and the wide array of styles can vary from tribe to tribe. The pow wow is thought to have started around 1804 and was first thought to have been practiced by the Poncas.

During the 1920’s some of the pow wows became intertribal meaning that those from various tribes were able to perform in the same ceremony where as prior to this time there was not interaction between various tribes but rather the tribes interacting independently for pow wows and other dance ceremonies. The pow wow has become stronger and continued evolving since World War II. These dances have changed in some ways to make them more modern but they continue to have cultural traditions. The style of dress has evolved and become brighter as well as the motions becoming more elaborate in the style of dress.

This style of dance has shown how things in the Native American culture is ever evolving and advancing with the times (Glazner, Solis, and Weinman). Another form of dance for the Native Americans is the straight dance. This dance form has strong roots in the Native American culture and is a big part of many ceremonies. This dance is one that has strong roots in the culture as it is one of the most formal dances and it was an original dance in many Southern tribes. These men who dance keep a steady and flowing pace.

This dance can have dancers who greatly range in age as there are many young children and many older men who all will participate in this form of dance. The outfit is a well made outfit that consists of many parts. There is the roach (a headpiece with a feather), spreader (silver braided leather with a lock of hair in a roach pin), headband and scalp feathers, ribbon shirt, bandoliers, drops (attached at the neck these scrape the ground when one is dancing), there is much ribbon work and there are deer toe clackers, leggings and moccasins (Glazner, Solis and Weiner).

The Native Americans also can be found performing the traditional dance. The traditional dance has evolved with the times like the pow wow. This form of dance is performed based on strong roots with the culture. There are many different types of dance that are performed as part of the traditional dance. These include the crow hop. In this dance the dancer hops to the beat of the drum. Another traditional dance is the sneak up. During this dance the dancer imitates a warrior in the field or an animal looking for its prey. This dance begins with dancers low to the ground while the drum is rolling.

Then there are sounds to mimic gunshots from the drums and then the drums pick a steady beat to with which the dancers will stand and dance. The style of dress for the traditional dance is very similar to those of the straight dance (Glazner, Solis, and Weiner). There is much significant history in the style of dance that is performed by the Native Americans. These dances have been a part of their culture for many years and have historically been a large part of who the people are and what is being done in their communities.

These dances originated for various reasons, some were to celebrate gods or to pay their respects to gods while others were to celebrate things going on in the world around them or in their families. Many of the dances that were originated for the Native American people were originated to be a part of ceremonies. Each of these dances does have some traditional forms of dress and other accessories that make the dance better for them. When the explorers first came to America they referenced these types of dance when talking about what they had found.

They discussed how the dances were performed as well as the dress and performance of the dancers. There are many various types of training for those who are Native Americans and wanting to learn how to dance in the traditional ways. Many of the tribes synchronize the ability to teach the dances to the children/young adults as a right of passage or a way for the dancer to learn as they are going from one part of their life to another. This is most commonly seen in young men and young women as they enter puberty or become fertile and therefore are now a part of the “adult” world within the tribe.

It is during this time in many tribal cultures that they are no longer considered to be children. Most of the dances are to be performed in a celebratory state of mind, however some of them require a more spiritual or reverent state of mind. All of the dances that are performed by the Native American people are significant to them for one reason or another. These dances give them a way to share what they are feeling and are an expression of where the tribe has been as well as where the tribe will continue to grow (Laubin and Laubin 1977).

All of these forms of dance fall in the category of traditional dance. There are many reasons that dance is celebrated in the Native American culture. Some of these dances are done for traditional values and for the dancers to be able to celebrate the pasts of their people. While others of these dances are done for spiritual reasons and an awakening of the soul. No matter why the dances are being performed the role of dance in Native American culture plays a huge role in the lives of their people and is a way for the people to readily celebrate many different ceremonies.

There are many different types of Native American dance including the buckskin dance, cloth dance, fancy dance, gourd dance, grass dance, green corn dance, jingle dance, pow wow dance, straight dance, and traditional dance. Each type of dance plays its own important role in the development of the culture for these people (Evans and Evans 2003). Bibliography Dances (2000). Native American Culture. Retrieved on April 7, 2009 from http://www. ewebtribe. com/NACulture/dance. htm Evans, B. and Evans, M. G. (2003).

Native American Dance Steps, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Glazner, C. , Solis, R., and Weinman, G. Pow Wow Dance Styles. Southern Native American Pow Wows. Retrieved on April 7, 2009 from http://library. thinkquest. org/3081/styles. htm Ladies Traditional Buckskin Dance. Red Earth Dances. Retrieved on April 7, 2009 from http://www. powersource. com/gallery/objects/buck. html Laubin, R. and Laubin, G. (1977). Indian Dances of North America: Their Importance to American Life, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. Thompson, S. E. (2003). The History of the Green Corn Dance. Brownielocks and the Three Bears. Retrieved on April 8, 2009 from http://www. brownielocks. com/greencorndance. html

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Native American Dances: Celebrating Tradition and Spirituality. (2016, Nov 21). Retrieved from

Native American Dances: Celebrating Tradition and Spirituality
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