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Old 03-06-2007, 06:32 PM   #1
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Dancing Tails

Hello, everyone! It's been awhile since I posted anything to this forum, and usually in the N Trad venue then. I've been a N Trad dancer a long time, but I was recently invited by an elder to the Straight style. Because I was taught that I should view any requests by an elder as near-on to a requirement, I'm in the process of making a Straight suit. Some would say I've joined the dark side.

Please understand, I am very new to Straight dance. And if this has been covered specifically, I can't find it in the archives. Anyway, I'm a bit confused about something.
If only Tail dancers are supposed to dance the tails at Hethuska (heluska/inlonska/etc.) dances, then why do drums throw them in for Straight dance contests? Or does it make a difference for contests? Are the Straight Dancers who are not specifically Tail dancers supposed to stand still for the Tail, or are they supposed to continue dancing, like we do for the N Trad dance tails?
That leads to other questions, I guess, too. Like, if I were to be invited to the Hethuska(not likely, being new to Straight dancing and all, but just for arguments sake...), what should I do for the Tails of the songs? Go sit down? I was taught not to turn your back on the drum during a song. So, do we dance in place? Just stand there while the Tail Dancers dance? What happens if the Tail dancer tells me to continue dancing, through gestures, etc.? Well, obviously in that case, I would. But, I hope you see my point. It's a bit confusing when a Straight dancer is supposed to dance the Tails of the songs. Do we or don't we for contests or regular intertribals(if they throw a tail in), versus Tails for Man-Dances?
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Old 03-07-2007, 10:01 AM   #2
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Scottlollar,
You are asking a lot or very good, well thought out questions. I admire that. I'm sure that there are many on this board, including myself, who would be willing to answer your questions, though it would take quite awhile, as there is a lot of material to cover with the many questions you have raised. However, I am puzzled by one thing. If you have been encouraged to dance in the Straight Dance style by an elder, why would you not direct these questions to the elder? Wouldn't the elder be a primary source of information?
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Old 03-07-2007, 11:31 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Historian View Post
Scottlollar,
You are asking a lot or very good, well thought out questions. I admire that. I'm sure that there are many on this board, including myself, who would be willing to answer your questions, though it would take quite awhile, as there is a lot of material to cover with the many questions you have raised. However, I am puzzled by one thing. If you have been encouraged to dance in the Straight Dance style by an elder, why would you not direct these questions to the elder? Wouldn't the elder be a primary source of information?

Good question Historian.

If the elder that invited scottl is a true straight dancer and participates in man dance ceremonies of his tribe, then this elder should be the one Scott should go to for these answers.
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Old 03-07-2007, 12:02 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhoMe View Post
Good question Historian.

If the elder that invited scottl is a true straight dancer and participates in man dance ceremonies of his tribe, then this elder should be the one Scott should go to for these answers.
Historian, I've read many of your posts, and it appears to me you are one of the most knowledgeable persons on this forum.

Long story short(without dropping names), the elders who invited me are both women - sisters, actually. I've known their family a long time. The son of one of them is a Head Singer in these parts. His father invited me back into the circle 6 years ago after a long absence (family illness). He has since passed on, but he, my grandfather, and two others(all of whom were Straight Dancers) helped get me started dancing when I was a boy - but I chose to be a Feather Butt then. I want to pay respect to this family and honor their requests as best I can - it's the way I was taught. At this time, they do not have a male elder in the family who I can talk with. [That's 26 years of history compiled into 7 sentences]
I have, however, other friends(Straight dancers) in the circle who have invited me to various formals and other events, but as a N Trad dancer, never felt going was appropriate. I had thought that formals and Straight dances were just that - for Straight dancers.
I can address the question to some of them, if that is preferable. The questions just came up in my mind based on other topics I had read on this forum which seemed contradictory...
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Old 03-07-2007, 01:05 PM   #5
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I won't speak to the issue with your elders but I will say that a good chunk of your questions will be answered by going to a formal. There is a lot of variation in how each group handles tails so I recommend spending a lot of time traveling, bringing groceries and so on in order to get the questions answered. Doing this will teach you a lot about the clothes as well. Remember, you don't have to dance if you go to one of these. Anyone that goes and can't sit out because it is 'boring to not dance' has the wrong idea I think. Besides a person inside the circle should be busy watching what is going on around them as well. Participation is in everything to eating the feed to listening to the songs to praying on your own. Dancing is secondary. As far as it being only for straight dancers, my elders have always told me you wear what you have. It is not about perfect clothes. Just watch first and as you learn more first hand the rest will start to make sense. Don't rush decisions like this.

Finally, in dancing contest... it's contest. Can't explain it. The irony is that I was told the songs they give straight dancers is to see how knowledgeable they are. Trots or ruffle songs for example. Hmmm.... things have different reasons. You just have to remember that contest/ powwow and formal are all different. They all serve different purposes so they will be different in structure and protocol. Some singers consider it wrong to sing just one trot song at a formal and others consider it wrong to sing a set of trots for contest... where you are tells you what to do.
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Old 03-08-2007, 01:27 AM   #6
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Hey there Scott, good to talk to you again. I understand your situation through our privious conversations.

I would like to address the ceremonials vs powwows:
It is just that different. In a contest go ahead and dance out the tail. Show that you know the song and where the stop is, hopefully the singers truely know the songs themselves. I have heard some singers who don't really know how to properly end a certain song. At a Ceremonial you go back to your bench and, at the dances I have been to, sit down while the Tails finish the dance. I agree that you should go and observe ALL that goes on. The dinners, the stories(speakers), the dance, etc..

Go to the Ceremonials that you are invited to as a guest and participate as the guest of your so called sponsor. Ask them how to properly act and where to sit. Let the Whipman know what is going on and he will do what is right.
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Old 03-08-2007, 09:32 AM   #7
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Before singing the tail at the ceremonials, there is an intentional pause in the singing while all take their seats. This is not considered turning your back on the drum. It is the way the dance is structured.
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Old 03-08-2007, 04:00 PM   #8
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Hallo
I come from germany, and I have a question
From where had this dancer the shirt, and what a material is this shirt?. I find this outfit absolutly top. Can somebody help me? KlickKlack
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Old 03-08-2007, 04:07 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gledanh Zhinga View Post
Before singing the tail at the ceremonials, there is an intentional pause in the singing while all take their seats. This is not considered turning your back on the drum. It is the way the dance is structured.
Thank you! I appreciate this info. That is the one piece that was causing the most trepidation, really.

Cherosage, FatAlbert, WhoMe, Historian, thank you all for your input, and your willingness to help answer questions or point me in the right direction. It is much appreciated. I will be talking to my friends, and the elders I know, and a few other knowledgeable people in these parts, regarding this. I will be attending a ceremonial in May - at least that is the plan. And I will talk with the folks who invited me and also to the Whip man, explaining the situation.
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Old 03-09-2007, 01:05 PM   #10
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What Gledanh Zhinga is talking about is one of the most obvious aspects of the formal. There is a lot more that a careful eye and an open ear can find. I just keep having to remind myself that I have not seen anything yet! Enjoy yourself in May but make sure you keep asking your family and elders questions so that things start to make sense.
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Old 03-10-2007, 10:59 AM   #11
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Scottlollar,
While the majority of your information will come from observing society dances and talking with elders, I can offer the following information, which has been discussed on other threads in the past. It may help you to have a point of reference.

In the past, when the Omaha/Ponca Hethuska would go out as a group to fight their enemies, the 4 appointed “Tail” men, (those who had to have attained the first 6 war honors involved in striking the enemy entitling them to carry the society “coup sticks”), displayed the society’s war honors. These crooked staffs would be used to touch enemies in close combat, proving the Tail men’s bravery. The crooked staffs would also be used to hoist a wounded companion off the battlefield and onto a horse without having to dismount. During a battle with their enemies, the Tail men of the Omaha/Ponca Hethuska were said to have been “the bravest of fighters,” and would stay toward the back of a war party and defend the “tail” of the group from attack. On rare occasions, if the enemy strength became too overwhelming these men volunteered to stay behind and fight the enemy, frequently sacrificing themselves, while the rest of the war party escaped to safety.

Today, for the Hethuska Ceremonial Dances, there are usually at least 2 Tail Dancers appointed by the Headman who are considered at the peak of their skill and strength. It is said that they are “all together.” The Tail Dancers serve as role models for the younger members of the Hethuska Society and act as representatives for the general membership, through which the opinions and desires of the members are made known to the Headman and Committeemen. In the buffalo days, the crooked coup-stick, sometimes reached a length of 8 feet. However, it has evolved and is today represented by a shortened, straight version about 2.50 to 3 feet long called a “tail stick.” Traditionally, this tail stick is carried only by the appointed Tail Dancers, by men who previously served as Tail Dancers, or by visiting Tail Dancers from other War Dance organizations. During the dance ceremony the Tail Dancers are obligated to dance on the repeated last verse or “tail” of all appropriate songs. This obligation represents the historical practice of the Tail men going back to the scene of a recent battle, at great risk to themselves, to recover any wounded or dead companions. It is further said that the practice of more traditional Tail Dancers, is to kick up one foot at the last beat of the drum at the end of a song’s tail. This would symbolize the way the Tail men warriors would kick the bodies of their fallen enemies on the battlefield to make sure they were dead and no longer a threat, while recovering their dead and/or wounded from the battlefield area.

Hope this helps.
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Last edited by Historian; 03-10-2007 at 11:02 AM..
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Old 03-10-2007, 01:24 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Historian View Post
It is further said that the practice of more traditional Tail Dancers, is to kick up one foot at the last beat of the drum at the end of a song’s tail. This would symbolize the way the Tail men warriors would kick the bodies of their fallen enemies on the battlefield to make sure they were dead and no longer a threat, while recovering their dead and/or wounded from the battlefield area.

Hope this helps.

I always say 'you learn something new everyday'. And it's true. I've seen some gentlemen Straight Dancers kick up their foot on the last beat of the song. Of course, as a northern dancer, I assumed this was just part of the 'Southern style', and never paid it much attention. Now I know what it is supposed to represent.
I always believed that the dance sticks used by norhtern or southern dancers were supposed to represent the coup sticks of times gone by. And I knew the significance of a crooked staff, but never assumed the two had any real connection - this explains why A Straight dancer must be given a tail stick before dancing with it.
Thank you!
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Old 03-10-2007, 10:12 PM   #13
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I just want to add a part on to this conversation about the contest part. From what I have been taught and see when I contested at powwows is the contest song is sung four times threw and then there was no tail added.

Just my one cent to add. And thanks Historian and the others for your great comments.

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Old 03-10-2007, 10:34 PM   #14
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About the charging, rolling drum songs. Years ago, I said to Clyde Warrior, "These songs don't have tails". He said, "Sure they do; they just sing the tail first." Har de har.

Last edited by Gledanh Zhinga; 03-10-2007 at 10:38 PM.. Reason: wrong thread
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