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Silver Cloud

Randy Whitehead (Silver Cloud, Blackfoot, Flathead, Lumbee):  Everywhere we go people go, you guys are from New York City? You know, we go – we went to Denver this past, this – this March and people were like, you guys are from New York?  And it never dawned on us we had to say “City”. You know, and then when we started saying City people were like,  you guys are from New York City? You mean, like where they make that paste picanti sauce, where like the Yankees come from? Yep, that’s us. We come from New York.  *Indians don’t come from New York. Indians don’t sing like you guys in New York. We do, you know, and now we’re beginning to get a name.

In the beginning they looked down at us because we were an intertribal drum. We weren’t, you know, we weren’t one tribe, we weren’t one nation.  We looked like a pickup drum, we still dress like a pickup drum.  You know, we’re just a drum from New York City, we’ve  played in almost every theater *except for Carnegie Hall, and  we did the soundtrack for Robbie Robertson. You know, and they sit there and they go, you know, you’re that Silver Cloud. Yeah, we’re that Silver Cloud. And they’re like, wow.


BOYE LADD:  The traditional style of dance where you’ll see the one single bustle on the back. It’s a much slower version  where is more solemn, more respectful. Each warrior you’ll see sometimes integrate war paint on their face.  Their style of headdress may vary a little bit but, in essence, they’re telling a story with the use of their coup stick or the use of their fan, expresses a story as they dance. As they feel  the music they will try to tell a story maybe of either tracking the enemy or perhaps tracking some deer or buffalo on a hunt.

Cecil Nepoose (Northern Traditional Dancer, Cree):  It’s a display of yourself and your motion, your feeling and your  spirit that takes you into a journey of being a warrior  and you display your actions in battle and you display your being a protector and a provider for your tribe.  Certain people have their own unique style of dancing and when they dance to the beat of the drum  they just kind of go down and kind of look, you know, communicating some of the old time chicken dances  and they kind of watch out, kind of watch for the enemy, kind of looking out - ready for action, kind of always being on guard.


BOYE LADD:  The ladies traditional style of dance was a solemn dance. There are two different styles. One is what they call the  stationary style where they’ll dance in one place in time with the beat of  the drum. On the honor beat you’ll see them using their fan, acknowledging the spirit world as they raise it on the downbeat.  The other style is what they call the stylized walk. It’s kind of basically walking flat-footed keeping time with the beat of the drum and swaying  their fringe, their shawl or their dress fringe in time with the beat of the drum.

Mary Anne Anquoe:  They say women’s  dance is graceful; well, I don’t like the word graceful walk because we’re dancing hard as we can.  You get out of breath, you get tired.  When I get in that arena, get ready, there’s only good thoughts. By any means are you out there to say I want people look at me, I’m out here, I’m dancing, you know, you just feel so great. You took a lot of time and care into dressing.

Grass Dance

BOYE LADD: The oldest of all the powwow styles of dance today is the grass dance. The grass dance originated amongst the Omaha people of the Central Plains. 

KENNY SCABBY ROBE:   It’s one of the most sacred dances that we have. And what they did is they took grass like this. They rolled it up like this and then they tied it, they wrapped the grass around. And they would make about 4, maybe 6, and they would tuck them under their belts here and they would send them out either to scout for buffalo or scouting for enemy.  If they needed to build fire, if they were cold , they would use this and they would set a fire. Also it was used for protection. They would take this because Mother Earth is sacred to us. 

I dance a long time grass and I was probably one of the few that held onto this dance.  In the old days it was different. The dancers, it was much footwork, there was no spinning, just a lot of weaving. You weave like the grass.  When you’re dancing you symbolize that like you see the grass moving. How beautiful.  When you go into the prairies, if you can go in the prairies with the long grass you’ll see that when it blows and sometimes if you look at it from a distance you can see it waving. The Grass Dance today is much more like fancy dance. There’s a lot of spinning and there’s a lot of other things that they do that original Grass Dancers don’t do.

Jingle DRESS

BOYE LADD:  And the ladies style of dance the oldest is perhaps what we call the jingle dress style of dance. This originated among the Ojibwa people of the Great Lakes. The use of  the metal snuff can covers were used  as a medicinal dance to ward off many of the bad spirits.

Mary Ahenakew (Jingle Dancer, Cherokee, Scataway):  They’re called jingles and made out of snuff can lids. They’re curled. There should be 365 jingles on a dress representing the days of the year and 7 rows on a dress for the 4 directions, for the sky, Earth and for, you know, the spirit inside.  There is a basic step but then everybody has their own originality and they come up with their, you know, own style and it’s basically to really look graceful and try and do intricate footwork and, of course, to raise your fan during the honor beats and, of course, to  stop when the drum stops, the last beat, and you  try and make your outfit, you know, original.

I like to dance. It makes you feel good and you also dance to make other people feel good and there might be people who feel sick or their spirits are low so you try and dance to make people happy and feel  good.

Fancy Shawl

BOYE LADD:  Next we have the fancy shawl dance which was created in the early 1960’s.  This is basically when women’s lib came to Indian country when women start copying, utilizing motions and actions of many of the younger men such as the fancy dance. By draping a shawl over their shoulders, they would use this fringe as a way to, again, catch the judge’s eye but also use it as an extension of their body to express their story, much like you would see a butterfly, an eagle as it flies through the heavens.

Fancy Dance

BOYE LADD: The men’s fancy dance was created  as a result, a direct result of a lot of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Shows that toured overseas. And searching for  something that was more spectacular, they started adding  more and more feathers.

JOHNNY WHITECLOUD:  Iit was like the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and Indians would come out and chase the stagecoach and there’d be a fight between the cavalry and the Indians. And the Indians would get off their horses and dance, and the more that they danced fancy the more the crowd liked it from the traditional steps.  Fancy dance is  anything goes, and there’s two sets of bustles. One set of bustles here, one set of bustles here, and they go for fanciness -  anything that’s shiny and glimmering and fantastic. It’s a free-for-all. Once you get the basic steps down  and you get your footwork then you come up with your own style.

BOYE LADD:  Fancy dance exemplifies speed, agility, degree of difficulty, the color. You’ll se a lot of fluorescence used in the  regalia today  to gather the judge’s eye


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Last modified: September 03, 2012