Free Essay

Traditional Grass Dance

In: Other Topics

Submitted By ashley81614
Words 1358
Pages 6
Minnesota State University- Mankato

Traditional Grass Dance

Ashley Silva
Humanities 281W: Human Diversity and Humanities Traditions
Jeris Swanhorst
July 6, 2014

As history will prove, many cultures have been immortalized through various artistic means. Many include the written word or preserved artwork. The many tribes of Native Americans choose to commemorate their history and honor their ancestors through the art of dance.
One of the most popular dance styles for Native Americans known today is the ‘Grass Dance’. While its exact origins are not known, there are still several pieces of information that can be used to piece together the history. Several sources believe the dance began in the Northern region; ‘the dance was given to the Dakota by the Ponca about three hundred years ago at a place just east of the Black hills of South Dakota’ (Howard, 82). An approximation places this time frame around the year of 1860. As more participants began to experience and learn the dance style, the influence and knowledge of the dance began to spread. The dance reached the Blackfeet tribe in the 1870s, and eventually the Gros Ventre tribe around 1875-1880. From the 1920s to after World War II, an economic change in the United States had a greater impact on the nature of the grass dance. Many of the ceremonial traditions of the dance were lost during this time period and transformed into more of an entertainment form of dance. Along with these changes also came the involvement of women being able to perform the dance; for many generations only men were given the honor of participating in the grass dance.
As the dance began to evolve throughout different regions and tribes, so did the stories of how the dance came to be. Some say that the dance originated when a medicine man told a boy with no use of his legs to search for healing in the prairie. There he observed the gentle swaying of the grass and received a vision of himself dancing in that prairie. When he shared this vision, the use of his legs was restored and he danced in celebration in the first grass dance. Other tales tell of how the dance was used to bless the ground before setting up home areas. ‘Dancing down the grass would make it easier for people to walk around, to put up their teepees. Also, blessing the ground was so nothing would happen to the people’ (Axtmann, 10). Still, others state that the grass dance originated as more of a war dance. Only those who had war honors were allowed to be initiated into the world of the grass dance. ‘Each member was formally initiated into the lodge, at which time his hair was ceremonially cut in the fashion of the society and he was presented with its characteristic insignia…..said to be protection against arrows and bullets’ (Howard, 83). Despite the differences in origin stories, one thing is clear; the movements and styling of the dance has remained the same throughout generations. The grass dance is characterized by bright, colorful clothing and powerful steady movements. Dancers wear a shirt, pants and aprons that have been adorned with long yarn or ribbon as fringe. White fringe is most often preferred but gold, silver and other light colors are used as well. The outfit will also include headbands, harnesses arm bands and cuffs that have matching beading. A porcupine (or deer, moose or artificial) hair roach which can resemble that of the traditional Mohawk style that has been dyed a bright color is also included along with feathers that are meant to move along with the dancers. Many believe that the term ‘grass dance’ also comes from the previous tradition of wearing grass in the belt. Additionally, leaders of the tribe would also wear a feathered accessory called the ‘crow belt’ which could symbolize a battlefield. Bells are worn around the ankles to provide auditory stimulation along with the visual. Beaded or painted moccasins are mainly worn, but younger generations that have embraced modern times may also wear beaded or painted sneakers. To complete the outfit, many accessories can also be worn such as a choker or bone breast plate. Many may also carry a fan, scarf, fur-covered hoop or dream catcher. The importance of the style of clothing worn by the dance is obvious once the dance begins. ‘As you’re dancing you feel yourself stand taller and show everything you’ve got because the Creator has given you everything you have’ (Axtmann, 12). Each movement that is danced on one side, must also be repeated by the other side as a reflection of the need for balance in life. ‘Dancers should keep either up or down with the beat of the drum, nodding quickly, several times to each beat-or moving from side to side; the purpose of this action is to keep the roach crest feathers spinning’ (Axtmann, 11). Once the beat of the drum begins, the participants will begin to bend and twist ensuring that all body parts are moving. While at first glance it may appear to be slightly chaotic with no order, upon further inspection the dancers can be seen to be moving in a clockwise direction. Some steps may include ‘three taps of the toe followed by a dropping of the heel, the right and left food alternating’ (Howard, 84) that could also be meant to mimic ‘the tamping in place of the soil after corn had been planted’ (Howard, 84). The most important step is making sure that the dancer’s feet are consistently touching the ground in tune with the beat of the drum. One way that descendants can keep the spirit of the dance alive is by participating in pow-wows and competitions. Individuals from different regions representing distinct tribal groups all join in friendly competition. ‘As performer’s bodies transfer power to one another and to all powwow visitors, they also communicate with others who might not be present, loved ones who have passed away and a higher spirit’ (Axtmann, 13). For some, competing can not only be a way of honoring the past but to also make a living; some competitions can offer cash prizes ranging up to thousands of dollars. Over the years, competitions have seen a rise in participation. ‘In the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut alone, from 1995 to 2001, the number of powwow events has tripled’ (Axtmann, 7). A simple search online for powwow brings up multiple events all over the country that people are able to attend. Events can last anywhere between a one day event to a maximum of a week. Competitions will have certain rules that are necessary to be met before performing. One particular rule asks that people refer to the clothing worn as ‘regalia’ and not ‘costumes’. Other competitions will require proof of Native American lineage. Overall, nobody can deny the powerfulness of what the grass dance represents. One of the most captivating traits of the dance is the ability to interpret it in many ways. For some, it’s a powerful way to memorialize the loved ones of the past. For others it can symbolize a sense of strength and survival, overcoming adversity over hundreds of years. Indeed, ‘the dance is colorful, its music stirring, and it fully reflects the love of excitement and combat which was such an important factor in the old Dakota way of life’ (Howard, 85). It is often commonly described as a way to bridge both old and new traditions of the Dakota tribe. One thing is for certain; as long as these dances continue to live on generation through generation the memory of the tribes will never be forgotten.

Works Cited: 1. Axtmann, Ann. "Performative Power in Native America: Powwow Dancing." Dance Research Journal 33: 7-22. Jstor. Web. 2 July 2014. 2. Howard, James. "Notes on the Dakota Grass Dance." Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 7: 82-85. Jstor. Web. 2 July 2014. 3. Hatton, Orin. "In the Tradition: Grass Dance Musical Style and Female Pow-Wow Singers."Ethnomusicology 30: 197-222. Jstor. Web. 4 July 2014.

Similar Documents

Free Essay

This Is Pow Wow

...This is Pow Wow He stood among the dancers in the grass arena, still and poised, ready to outperform his competition. Finally, the loudspeakers rang out with the beat of the drum, setting the dancers into motion for the last time that year. Slowly, they began to come alive quickening their pace as the singers cried out their song. His steps were perfect, each one placed with meaning, precisely timed with the beat. His feathers bobbed up and down, echoing his movements. Beads of sweat streamed down his painted face and caught at the end of his nose before being thrown onto the moccasin-beaten grass. His bells and headdress shook with each step, the red and yellow colors of his regalia blurring as he spun. His heart raced as the song reached its peak, his hands wet with nervous sweat. He timed his steps, concentrated on the beat, and took a deep breath, preparing for the move that would bring him victory: a complete and perfect handspring. As his feet came down over his body, thousands of Indians around the arena caught their breath. He pretended not to notice, continuing to pound his moccasins into the ground in rhythm with the drum. As the last beat rang, he froze his body in the stance of a warrior, posing as still as he had before the song began. His chest heaved and sweat poured down his broad, smiling face. I joined my family and the crowd in cheering for him, proud to be his niece. Dancers like him and moments like these are what keep our culture alive. This is why I......

Words: 1745 - Pages: 7

Premium Essay

Blue Grass Music Analysis

...In 1917, 1.5 million Germans arrived to America to escape from discrimination and the revolution that broke out in Russia. Some on the cities the Germans fled to were Toledo, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Louis. This group of people decided to settle in the northeast part of the United States, and stay away from the south. In the song by the Gibson brothers “ Big Mon” the band plays blue-grass music. The Germans learned from the Irish about the blue grass music, because they were living in close proximity to each other near the Appellation Mountains. German culture is being portrayed in the songs, skits, and monologues of Each Season Change in the Prairie Home Companion. The German culture is also being referred to in the song “Tavern...

Words: 437 - Pages: 2

Premium Essay

Folk Dance

...What is dance? Dance is a performance art form consisting of purposefully selected sequences of human movement. This movement has aesthetic and symbolicvalue, and is acknowledged as dance by performers and observers within a particular culture.[nb 1] Dance can be categorized and described by its choreography, by its repertoire of movements, or by its historical period orplace of origin. An important distinction is to be drawn between the contexts of theatrical andparticipatory dance,[4] although these two categories are not always completely separate; both may have special functions, whether social,ceremonial, competitive, erotic, martial, or sacred/liturgical. Others disciplines of human movement are sometimes said to have a dance-like quality, including martial arts, gymnastics, figure skating, synchronized swimming and many other forms of athletics. 2. What are the types/kinds of dances? Types of Dance - Categories Here are some of the most popular dance categories and types: Ballroom Dances These dances started appearing first in Italy, during the early years of Renaissance. Popularity of this kind of entertainment quickly swept over the Europe, United States and the World. Although many other simpler and more easily preformed types of dances caused the ballroom dances to lose some of their influence, modern worldwide dancing audience started resurrecting these immortal dances in ever increasing pace. • Waltz - This graceful and slow two person dance was......

Words: 6745 - Pages: 27

Free Essay

Things We Cannot See When Our Eyes Are Closed

...relations. In the eastern portion of southern Africa, the Zulus are the most well known clan. The Zulu settled in the late 18th century along with Xhosa, Pando, and Swazi people. This area is now known as KwaZulu-Natal. These collective clans all speak related languages and share similar cultures. This clan looked at this land as one of “milk and honey”, a fertile land with grass and patches of dense bush with numerous rivers and streams. This then was the birth place of the Zulu nation. There were struggles between the clans for grazing rights which resulted in shouting insults and assegai throwing. The tribe’s primary mode of subsistence. Before the mid-nineteenth century the Zulu depended on horticulture and the raising of livestock. Their staple crop was farm corn, and vegetables, while cattle, goats, and poultry were the most important livestock (McCord, 1911). The men and the boys that are called herds are responsible for the cows, which graze on the open country. The women do the harvesting and planting clout within the family (Johnson, 2012). The Zulu live in house or huts that are made from grass, supported on frame work of woven sticks. Its shape is like the old...

Words: 2497 - Pages: 10

Free Essay

Polynesian Dance vs Native American Dance

...Research Paper While traditional Native American dance and the Polynesian dance are both unique to their cultures, a developed comparison reveals they share many similarities in technique and meaning. In this essay, I will evaluate these similarities along with the differences that make each dance unique to its people and their culture. “Dance is a poem in which each movement is a word and is the most hidden language of the soul” this was found searching the web for what others felt the meaning of dance meant to them. An interesting fact about cultures and dance is that dance was used to express how they felt and emit their own expression of themselves. One thing that both Native American and Polynesian both have in common are they both believe in the spirits of their ancestors. When the Polynesian's danced the Hula they thought that if done incorrectly that something would happen and may turn disastrous while Native American dance specifically for a reason and believed if they asked for thanks for necessities they would acquire it. Both dances were created for one reason and one reason only to ask for help spiritually. Native American culture and the way they danced were entirely for their Gods, basically as an offering to show how important they were and how much their Gods were believed in. As the Polynesians too were spiritual and wouldn’t dance until an elder blessed the area in which would be danced upon, they also danced to perform for their people as......

Words: 1090 - Pages: 5

Free Essay


...the use of drinking glasses", this vibrant dance basically shows off balancing skill of the performers. Glasses filled with rice wine are placed on the head and on each hand carefully maneuvered with graceful movements. This dance is common in weddings, fiestas and special occasions. Pandanggo sa Ilaw - The word pandanggo comes from the Spanish dance "fandango"characterized with lively steps and clapping while following a varying ¾ beat. Pandanggo requires excellent balancing skill to maintain the stability of three tinggoy, or oil lamps, placed on head and at the back of each hand. This famous dance of grace and balance originated from Lubang Island, Mindoro. Sublian - The term "subli" is from two tagalog words "subsub" meaning falling on head and "bali", which means broken. Hence, the dancers appear to be lame and crooked throughout the dance. This version is originally a ritual dance of the natives of Bauan, Batangas, which is shown during fiestas as a ceremonial worship dance to the town's icon, the holy cross. Kuratsa - Commonly performed during festivals in Bohol and other Visayan towns, this dance portrays a young playful couple's attempt to get each other's attention. It is performed in a moderate waltz style. Itik-itik - According to history of this dance, a young woman named Kanang (short for Cayetana) happened to be the best performer in the province of Surigao del Norte. At one baptismal reception, she was asked to dance the Sibay, and began improvising her......

Words: 639 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Folk Dances

...Traditional Folk Dances of the Philippines The Philippines has many popular folk dances which have evolved and changed as they have been passed down from generation to generation. Although a particular dance might be performed slightly differently from one region to the next, its remains true to its roots. Here are some of the most popular dances from the region. The Itik-Itik The best description of the Itik-Itik is that the steps mimic the way a duck walks, as well as the way it splashes water on its back to attract a mate. According to popular tradition, the dance was created by a lady named Kanang who choreographed the steps while dancing at a baptismal party. The other guests copied her movements, and everyone liked the dance so much that it has been passed along ever since. The Tinikling The Tinikling is considered by many to be the Philippines' national dance. The dance's movements imitate the movement of the tikling bird as it walks around through tall grass and between tree branches. People perform the dance using bamboo poles. The dance is composed of three basic steps which include singles, doubles and hops. It looks similar to playing jump rope, except that the dancers perform the steps around and between the bamboo poles, and the dance becomes faster until someone makes a mistake and the next set of dancers takes a turn. The Sayaw sa Bangko The Sayaw sa Bangko is performed on top of a narrow bench. Dancers need good balance as they go through a series of......

Words: 982 - Pages: 4

Free Essay


...DIFFERENT TYPES OF FILIPINO DANCES Idaw This dance sometimes has many names and different versions. Most common is this dance depicts the hunting ritual performed before a tribal war. The tribes men would go out and look up and watch for the scared Idaw bird. Which is said to lead the tribe to victory. Also look at the clothing, Philippines being a very hot climate, plus the use of as little material as possible, the traditional clothing was not made to cover much of the body.... Banga This dance displays the Igorot women on their way to the river to fetch the daily water supply for their families. It shows the skill and strength of the women as they would carry heavy laiden clay pots (Banga) full of water. Their grace and agility while balancing the heavy pots, sometimes stacks 5 high, is a testiment of the Filipino and how hardships become a art form and talent. As a young girl you would start with only one pot. Of course as you become older and more experienced, along with the fact that you could provide more water for your family in one trip. Pots could be stacked as high as 5 or 6. The more pots you could carry showed your skill and also you standing among the women of that area. They would all gather and march to the river each day, singing a native song which is represented by the flute and banging of bamboo on iron pots in the dance...... Idudu The family is the basic structure of family life among the Itneg / Tinggian people. The caring for the Children is......

Words: 1074 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Essay On Indian Culture

...different Hindu temples; one in Midrand and the second one in Melrose both in Johannesburg, South Africa. Afterwards I was taken to Fordsburg in Johannesburg where we ate burfee’s and afterwards went to the Dosu Hut where we shared an exciting afternoon over lunch and traditional curry. Therefore, the two Indian activities I participated in was visiting a Hindu temple and second, eating traditional Hindu foods. HINDU TEMPLE: Once I arrived at the Hindu temple in Midrand, I was in awe at all the beautiful colours and statues that surrounded the temple. It was my first time visiting an actual temple so the colours and detail on the temple really amazed me a lot. In depth understanding...

Words: 1992 - Pages: 8

Premium Essay

Society and Culture

...Culture is from the Latin word “cultura” which means cultivation. According to Edward Taylor he used “culture” to refer to a universal human capacity. Every country has it’s own culture, maybe it is adapted to other country or it’s their own culture. The Philippines was first settled by Melanesians; today, although few in numbers, they preserve a very traditional way of life and culture. After them, the Austronesians or more specifically, Malayo-Polynesians, arrived on the islands. During Spanish period, they conquered our country by almost more than three centuries. This colonization has a great impact in Philippines culture. They are the most influential period of our history. . After being colonized by Spain, the Philippines became a U.S. territory for about 40 years. Influence from the United States is seen in the wide use of the English language, and the modern pop culture. in terms of religion the Philippines is one of two predominantly Roman Catholic nations in Asia-Pacific, the other being East Timor. From a census in 2000, Catholics constitute 80.9%, with Aglipayanfollowers at 2%, Evangelical Christians at 2.8%, Iglesia Ni Cristo at 2.3%, and other Christian denominations at 4.5%. Islam is the religion for about 5% of the population, while 1.8% practice other religions. The remaining 0.6 did not specify a religion while 0.1% are irreligious Before the arrival of the Spaniards and the introduction of Roman Catholicism and Western culture in the 16th century,......

Words: 1190 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Strategic Marketing

...1. Distinguish between the different types of events and venues and their operating environment 2.1 Define Hall Mark and Mega events Mega events Although mega-events each have their peculiarities, they also share a number of characteristics: for example they are transient, but often of great economic and cultural significance; they employ drama and spectacle to underline and promote values of local, national or international importance, and they throw light on the societies, institutions and elites who are involved with them. Researchers approach them from a variety of perspectives: social historians may explore early mega-events like the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the St Louis World Fair of 1904 in the context of economic and political imperialism; sociologists may examine the ways in which all such festivals are consumed, and analyse how nations and power elites project certain images through the ceremonies they engage in. Tracing the evolution of mega-events from their earliest manifestations to the imposing examples of the modern Olympic Games can reveal some fascinating similarities. In fact, the earliest Games in the modern series shared the stage with trade festivals (for example, the World Fairs in Paris, 1900 and St Louis, 1904). A number of the publications produced by these festivals are held by the British Library, as are materials from a wide range of other early festivals. Studied in conjunction with the official Olympic Games reports - many of which......

Words: 786 - Pages: 4

Premium Essay

Nt1310 Unit 1 Music Assignment

...It has six sided body, often made with rose wood and the resonating chamber is covered with python skin or a thin piece of wood. The notes are played by the moving the fingers on the strings. The bow rests in-between the two strings, usually tuned a fifth apart. Guzheng The Guzheng is a traditional Chinese instrument – a plucked zither with movable bridges that typically has 21 strings. Guzheng are commonly about 1.6 metres in length. The guzheng is the modern westernised descendant of an ancient traditional Chinese musical instrument which was the ancestor of the Japanese koto, the Mongolian yatga, the Korean gayageum, and the Vietnamese đàn tranh. Koto The koto is a traditional Japanese stringed musical instrument which shares a common ancestor with the modern Chinese guzheng. It is the national instrument of Japan and typically about 1.8 metres in length.Koto are commonly made from kiri wood and decorated with fine Japanese fabric. They have 13 strings that are individually strung over movable bridges along the width of the...

Words: 1446 - Pages: 6

Premium Essay

Sandwich Island Research Paper

...other absurd practices. Some of the natives immediately converted without hesitance, but others were reluctant to convert to Christianity. Despite these obstacles, I believe that one day, we missionaries will have convinced all of these natives to convert to Christianity. I cannot believe the absurd things they do. At their religious ceremonies, the men and women display their top portion as if it were normal, and dance with grass and leaves dangling from their waist in a skirt! They also do inappropriate dancing and call it “storytelling”, even though it is just an obscenity that must be stopped. We must convince these natives that these are terrible sins and they will be punished if they continue to do this. I must teach them all that it’s wrong to show skin other than what is necessary. However, I have managed to convinced some natives to stop doing this dancing and start wearing more clothes, and hopefully their example will affect others. The natives also...

Words: 582 - Pages: 3

Premium Essay

Ojibwe Culture

...The Ojibwe culture in Minnesota is most widely represented by their Powwow celebrations. Powwow is a word used by early westerners to describe a grand dance among the indigenous people (Aitken). Powwows celebrate American Indian culture and history. There are many different powwows, but each event usually begins with a grand entrance of dancers and drummers. Dancing is at the center of powwows. The dancers wear colorful Ojibwe cultural clothing that jingles. Some outfits represent different animals like birds, bears, the fox, or deer. The celebration is a combination of Dakota war dances, Ojibwe dress, rodeo customs, and Omaha grass dance ceremonies (Treuer, p.2). The event includes arts and crafts, traditional food, singing, and...

Words: 1058 - Pages: 5

Premium Essay

Family Centered Health Promotion: Heritage Assessment Too

...Family Centered Health Promotion: Heritage Assessment Tool Janice Ward NRS-429V May 31, 2015 Family Centered Health Promotion: Heritage Assessment Tool A critical skill in nursing is to assess multicultural patients in the USA today. The culturally competent nurse is able to evaluate the needs of clients and families through the use of a Heritage Assessment Tool. The successful completion of a Heritage Assessment Tool will provide the basis for understanding traditional health and illness beliefs and practices. The incorporation of the patient’s The Journal of Transcultural Nursing states as it’s 6th standard of practice for transcultural nursing the following: Nurses shall recognize the effect of health care policies, delivery systems, and resources on their patient populations and shall empower and advocate for their patients as indicated. Nurses shall advocate for the inclusion of their patient’s cultural beliefs and practices in all dimensions of their health care. (Lauderdale, Milstead, Nardi, Purnell, Douglas, Pierce, Rosenkoeter, Pacquiao, Callister, Hattar-Pollara, 2011) In order for the nurse to support their patient in receiving the best of health care it is imperative the nurse understand their patient’s heritage. “Health care organizations should ensure that patients receive from all staff members effective, understandable, and respectful care that is provided in a manner compatible with their cultural health beliefs and......

Words: 1756 - Pages: 8