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Old 07-06-2004, 02:05 PM   #10
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Post Otter Dragger vs Hairplates

The Otter Dragger is said to be derived from the otter fur originally wrapped around the Grizzly Claw Necklaces worn by such tribes as Omaha, Ponca, Oto, Missouria, Kansa, and Pawnee, with the tail of the otter attached to the Grizzly Claw Necklace and hanging down the middle of the back, usually folded in half and decorated one edge. With the evolution of time, materials availability, and personal expression, (also because the Grizzly Claw necklaces became harder to come by), the Otter Tail became a separate component as it evolved and became longer to now include the entire center strip of otter skin from nose to tail mounted on broadcloth and is referred to as an Otter Dragger and is tied around the dancer's neck. This Otter Dragger component is a major element of the Omaha Heluska Society and the Ponca Hethuska Society members and is considered by elders to have been introduced to the Osage and other Oklahoma tribes by the Ponca and the Omaha in the 1870s.

A set of Hairplates, as the name implies, were originally a leather strap with bone or tin discs, silver cochos or some other trade metal plates worn tied to the scalplock at the back of the head by tribes such as the Comanche, Kiowa, Kiowa/Apache, Southern Cheyenne, Southern Arapaho, and Osage. It has been said that this element was originally to focus attention to their scalplock as a taunt to their enemies as it provided something to grab during close combat. Today, the set of Hairplates are usually worn similar to the Otter Dragger tied around the dancer's neck.

With tribes such as the Comanche and the Osage having been given the rights to dance the Ponca Hethuska traditions, some individuals will wear the traditional Otter Dragger of the Ponca, and some will choose to wear their more tribal tradition of Hairplates instead. Conversely, it is not uncommon to see Ponca wearing Hairplates as a personal preference. During the 1970s, 80s and into the 1990s it was very common to see Straight Dancers mix tribal components to see what looked good. You could see a Ponca dancer for example, wearing Cheyenne moccasins; Kiowa tab leggings; Osage ribbon aplique aprons; and a Comanche set of hairplates. Lately however, there has been a trend to return to a set of clothes that is tribal specific of one tribal tradition as much as possible.

Lastly, neither the Otter Dragger, nor the Hairplates, should not be confused with the "sash" that some "Sashwearers" would wear in Warrior Societies such as the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, that would trail out 10 or 12 feet behind them. These sashes were staked to the ground by a lance during battle, and the wearers would pledge not to move until killed by the enemy or released by a fellow warrior. This is a totally unrelated tradition, according to what I have been taught.
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"Be good, be kind, help each other."
"Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

--Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)
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