Teton Sioux Music and Culture

By Frances Densmore | Go to book overview

SONGS CONNECTED WITH DANCES AND GAMES

DANCES

In every Sioux village there was a lodge of suitable size for social gatherings or dances. An old type of Sioux dance lodge is shown in plate 76, A, the walls being of logs and the roof of branches covered with earth, a large smoke-hole being left in the center. Plate 76, B, shows a lodge on the Standing Rock Reservation in which the writer witnessed a dance in 1912. The following summer she learned that it had been torn down, as the Government was enforcing more vigorously the restrictions on dancing among the Indians. In this lodge, as in the older type, the construction was of logs, branches, and earth, but the shape was rectangular, the logs were plastered with earth, and the roof was almost flat with projecting stovepipes, indicating that the lodge was heated by stoves instead of an open fire.

Concerning Indian dances it was said that--

In dancing the Indiana imitate the actions of animals. In the grass dance the men imitate the motions of the eagle and graceful birds. In the buffalo dance they imitate the buffalo. The old-time dancing dress of the Indians imitated the animals, but there was always a charm or a headdress which indicated the personality of the wearer. The Indians imitate the cries of birds or animals when they dance. Some headdresses imitate the comb of a bird, and a man wearing such a headdress would imitate the actions of that bird. The actions of a dancer always correspond to his costume. This is a matter of choice and usually is not connected with a dream.


THE GRASS DANCE

The grass dance (peźí waćípi) may be said to exist at the present time among all the tribes of the northern plains, even to the Kutenai. The name Omaha identifies it with the Omaha tribe, from which it was received by many other tribes, but in transmission it has lost its significance, having become simply a social dance. According to Miss Fletcher, the dance originally was connected with the Hethú shka society of the Omaha, a society whose object "was to stimulate an heroic spirit among the people and to keep alive the memory of historic and valorous acts."1

Miss Fletcher describes one of its meetings, stating that2--

No clothing except the breechcloth was worn by the members, and a long bunch of grass representing scalps the wearer had taken was fastened to the belt at the back. . . . When the dance became known to the Dakota tribes and the Winnebago, the significance of the bunch of long grass having been forgotten, they gave the

____________________
1
Flecher and La Fleache, The Omaha Tribe, op. cit., p. 459.

-468-

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Teton Sioux Music and Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword v
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations - Black and White Plates ix
  • List of Songs xiii
  • Names of Singers xxvi
  • Phonetic Key xxviii
  • Teton Sioux Music 1
  • Introduction 1
  • Analysis of Sioux and Chippewa Songs 40
  • Ceremonies 63
  • Old Songs 152
  • Dreams and Their Obligations 157
  • Societies (okoălakiā06iye) 284
  • Comparatively Modern Songs 428
  • The Buffalo Hunt (wanásapi) 436
  • Council and Chief Songs 448
  • Songs Connected with Dances and Games 468
  • Miscellaneous Songs 492
  • Rhythimc Units 528
  • Bibliography 551
  • I N D E X 555
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