Many years ago, there were many songs that were sung for the Memorial Dance. On the first day of celebration, children were told not to be noisy or shout while they played. This was the day to honor the loved ones who passed away. During this time, persons who had special inheritances would join in a procession, which was led by one of the spiritual leaders. The people would be wearing or carrying items which were memorial keepsakes. The encampment would shed tears in memory of their loved ones. After the procession was finished, the announcement was made, "leave your sorrows, it is now the time to celebrate for happiness."
The Snake Dance was done to begin a war dance. It was led by a chosen man who gathered the dancers at a designated spot, generally at the camp of the Chief of the Celebration. The dancers danced in single file towards the ward dance pavilion with the leader weaving and doubling back in a fashion of a snake. The drummers and singers followed the group singing the Snake Dance Song.
A special song was introduced by the tribe in order to begin the war dancing. In later years this dance has worked well for the M.C. to introduce dancers and guests of different tribes.
The Flag Song was treated with respect; it is as important as the National Anthem is to the non-Indian. The Indian flags were made of eagle feathers attached to a long staff or spear and were carried by great warriors. When he carried the Indian flag, which would be equivalent to a diploma, certificate or trophy. The song was sung to open each performance.
Each warrior had his own style of dancing. A great number of songs are sung for war dancing, there are fast and slow war dance. The older type of war dancing, as said by the elders of the Tribe, was done similar to the Crow Hop.
The Round Dance, which is also called Circle Dance, is a social and happy dance because it is meant to get everyone to participate in the dance. The Gift Dance was also done during the Round Dance. When one person wished to give a gift to another, he merely escorted the person inside the circle of dancers and began Round Dancing around the drum. When the song ended, the gift was presented , generally announcements were made as to what was given, who received and who gave.
The Owl Dance is a social dance like the Round Dance, one of the few partner dances. It is a dance for which the women choose a partner; if the man she invites to dance declines, then he must pay a fine -- usually $5. The Owl Dance is a borrowed dance.
When a warrior prepared to leave on a hunt or raiding party he would begin by singing at one camp and then go on to the next, singing a different song at each camp. Others would join to help the warrior. the group grew larger and before the first light of the morning, the group would be gone without a word said. So, if one might ask around the encampment in the late hours of the night, they might hear a group of people singing Canvas Dance songs from camp to camp.
Home Sweet Home
This Farewell Song is a closing prayer song, which was sung at the end of the celebration. As the celebration began with a prayer, we close with a prayer. Today the Home Sweet Home song is generally sung after each day's performance.
Men's Traditional Dance
The Men's Traditional Dance is held over from times when war parties would return to the village and "dance out" the story of a battle, or hunters would return and dance the story of tracking an enemy or prey. The outfit of the traditional dancer is more subdued in color than some of the other dancers. The outfits are frequently decorated with bead and quill work and traditional dancers wear a circular bustle of eagle feathers, representing cycles and the unity of everything.
The Grass Dance is borrowed from the Omaha Tribe. The outfit features colorful fringe, replacing the grass dancers originally tucked into their belts.
Woman's Traditional Dance
The Women's Traditional Dance consist of remaining stationary and bending the knees with a slight up and down movement of the body. Most traditional dancers wear or carry a shawl and some carry an eagle or hawk feather fan or a single feather.
The Jingle Dance evolved from Mille Lacs, MN. In a holy man's dream, four women wearing jingle dresses appeared to him. Upon awakening he and his wife made four dresses, and told people about the dream and the dance. The jingle dress is not likely to be mistaken for anything else. The dress is made from cloth with hundreds (366) of metal cones or jingles covering it.
Everyone is welcome to dance at an Intertribal Dance. You don't have to have a dance outfit and you can dance in street clothes. Please join the dancers.
During celebrations the drummers would start singing this song to call for the pipe, if no one paid any attention to the song, the drummers would do a drum roll after the fourth start to indicate that the dance was over until the next day because they did not get the lit pipe. But if someone gave them a lit pipe, they would continue singing and dancing long into the night. Today we use the Smoking Song to honor someone.
The Scalp Dancing was done by the women who were dressed in men's clothing. After battles, the men would return to camp with the scalps which were tied on the end of a stick. There was a specific song that was sung for a group of women to go to certain camps to prepare for the Scalp Dance. Another song was sung when the women were being painted up and entering the War Dance Pavilion. There are many songs which are sung for the Scalp Dance. Gradually, some of the women would leave the group. When they returned they would be dressed in old, ragged clothing, their faces darkened with ashes and carrying a stick. If one of the women placed the stick over one of the men's shoulder, and it was not pushed away, the two were considered married.
When a scout returned to the camp with news, he would ride back and forth outside of camp, making the howling song of a dog or wolf. The encampment, upon hearing this sound would gather at the edge of camp and being to sing the Scout's Song. When the scout approached, he would go behind with a stick by the leader. The Scout would then signify by a signal as to what he had seen (human or animal). He would be asked of his news, then he would tell what he had seen.
A song was sung to gather the warriors who were to tell of their great deeds. The Lost Article Dance, items were left on the ground, the dance ended when the warrior picked up the lost item. The warrior told of how he had taken certain items during the battle. There were many warriors who had stories to tell of the great deeds. When the stories had finished, a certain song was sung to signify that the Lost Article Dance had ended and the warriors were to be escorted out of the dance circle.
Prairie Chicken Dance
Many years ago, a man resting in a field woke and heard singing near him; very carefully, he raised up and saw the Prairie Chicken singing and dancing in prayer. The man returned to his people and showed them how this dance was done, consequently, the dancers strut around and show off as the Prairie Chicken. In later years, this dance became a specialty and it is used much in competitions because of its different style of drum beat.
This very colorful and exciting dance is used in the finals of championship dancing. This attracts many of the younger dancers throughout the country to demonstrate their various steps and fancy movements. The dance judges have their work set out for them; they judge the dancers on their style and how well they know the song. The dance is based on the 'double step' but features fancy footwork, increased speed, and acrobatic steps and motions.