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Forum Home - Go Back > Pow Wow Arena > Men's Dance Styles > Straight Dancing Men's Wearing Blanket Men's Wearing Blanket

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Old 02-28-2009, 02:10 PM   #1
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Men's Wearing Blanket

Makes Them Cry – Osage – 1913


In her book titled, “The Osage Ceremonial Dance I’n-Lon-Schka,” Alice Callahan writes the following concerning blankets,

“Blankets are often worn over the traditional dress into the dance arena. They are then carefully folded and placed on the bench where the dancer will sit, serving as a cushion as well as reserving a dancer’s place on the bench.”
(Callahan, 1990, p. 112)

Modern straight dancers attending ceremonial dances of the Osage, Ponca, Omaha, Comanche, and Pawnee to name a few, usually do not consider themselves complete without some type of a wearing blanket.

As Alice Callahan states, many dancers will wear the blanket over their shoulders and wrapped around themselves in a traditional style while entering the dance circle. However, other straight dancers will simply carry the folded blanket under an arm.

The most common type of blanket used today is the wool Pendleton trade blanket.

However, I have seen many fine examples of rainbow selvage wool broadcloth blankets with lazy-stitch beaded “blanket strips” decorating the center of the blanket. In this case two pieces of rainbow selvage broad cloth are sewn together, and ribbonwork protects the edges. The blanket is worn over both shoulders, so that the two strips of selvage are verticle down the dancers back, with the beaded strip showing horizontally in the center, wrapping around the dancer.

On rare occasions a dancer will have a blanket commonly referred to as a “four-way.” These blankets have a long tradition on the Southern Plains and are highly prized. When a bolt, or approximately 1,000 yards, of rainbow selvage broadcloth comes from a woolen mill, it was wrapped in a tube-like outer covering of broadcloth with rainbow selvage on both ends. This tube-like outer covering also had a double line of rainbow selvage running lengthwise down the bolt. When the traders opened this tube-like outer covering they would carefully cut the cloth down the center of the double selvage, thereby creating a blanket with a rainbow selvage on all four edges, hence the name “four-way.” It is therefore, easy to understand why these blankets were highly sought after, as there was only one “four-way” blanket for every 1,000 yards of regular wool broadcloth.

Osage War Mothers "four-way" blanket.


Callahan, Alice A.
1990. The Osage Ceremonial Dance, I’n-Lon-Schka. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.

Drefke, Don.
2004. Southern Men's Wearing Blankets. Whispering Wind Magazine, Volume 34, No. 4, Folsom, LA.
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Last edited by Historian; 03-01-2009 at 05:49 PM..
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Old 03-24-2009, 05:39 AM   #2
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Is there a proper way to wear these? I was told that you would wear it over the left shoulder so your right arm was free or as it was put to me... your rifle arm. I was also told that women wear shawls over both shoulders so it was important when giving a man a blanket to put it on him the right way so as not to embarrass him. Of course in practice I have seen a lot of different things. Maybe it is just handy to have your hand free to shake hands? What do you say?
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Old 03-24-2009, 01:05 PM   #3
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Amidst long travels/journeys, wouldn't it be common to see the blanket wrapped around the waist?
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Old 03-26-2009, 06:14 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fat Albert View Post
Is there a proper way to wear these? I was told that you would wear it over the left shoulder so your right arm was free or as it was put to me... your rifle arm. I was also told that women wear shawls over both shoulders so it was important when giving a man a blanket to put it on him the right way so as not to embarrass him. Of course in practice I have seen a lot of different things. Maybe it is just handy to have your hand free to shake hands? What do you say?
The traditions may vary from tribe to tribe as to how a man would wear a man's buffalo robe. Later these traditions evolved into the use and meanings associated with a man's wearing blanket.

In the way I was taught by Ponca and Osage elders, when a man is walking in dance clothes to or from the dance circle, the wearing blanket is drapped over the neck and both shoulders, and gathered at the front, covering the entire torso. The double strips of selvage are usually verticle down the dancers back. If there is a beaded strip on the blanket, is will appear horizontally, wrapping around the dancer in mid-torso. This is considered the traditional manner to walk in the blanket to confer an attitude that you are focused on going someplace, and you are "not open" to being interupted.

When a man was standing and wished to confer an attitude that he is "close off" but ready to listen, the wearing blanket is drapped over the neck and both shoulders, and gathered tightly at the front.

Pawnee men - 1868



For a formal attitude, especially when addressing a group in a "formal setting," the blanket would be slung over the left shoulder. The rest of the blanket would be wrapped across the back, coming under the right arm, and going across the chest. When a man would stand during a water break, and wrap his blanket around himself in this manner, all others would recognize that he was preparing to speak to the organization about something important. As to leaving the right arm (aka the weapon arm) free, I have heard this also.

Lone Chief, Standing Buffalo Bull, Iron Whip, Walks With Effort - Ponca - 1858


Pa-Tek-Kwa - Sauk & Fox - 1868


Quanah Parker – Comanche – 1892


Picking Up Something - Sauk & Fox - 1896


Osage men – no date


Wahon'thinge and wife - Omaha - 1907


Walking Dog – Osage – 1923


Quah-se-yah - Comanche - 1926


Wrapping the blanket around your waist, with both arms available, in the way I was taught, denotes a casual, informal attitude.

The Sea - Sauk & Fox - 1869


Quanah Parker – Comanche – 1890


Comanche man – 1891


Little Snake - Omaha - 1898


White Eagle, Standing Bear - Ponca - no date


Good Fox - Pawnee - 1902


As I understand it, among many southern tribes today, the wearing blanket traditions are undergoing a revival.
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Last edited by Historian; 03-26-2009 at 06:18 PM..
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Old 03-26-2009, 09:45 PM   #5
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Making a revival?!?!?!?

This is good to hear. I did this one time recently and got a lot of weird stares. A few even poked fun and made ignorant remarks. Shortly thereafter, the MC (having traveled as I have) took the time to educate the crowd on what I was doing. For most it was something that fell on deaf ears...but, I too took the time to show my appreciation for him recognizing an old practice.

Kewl beans!
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Old 03-27-2009, 01:03 PM   #6
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A couple of things.
Re Historian's remarks earlier about how the blanket is to be worn, Sylvester Warrior one time approached me with a blanket and showed me one way to put it on. It was as Historian first described when a man is entering or leaving the ceremonial circle. After draping over both shoulders and back with the selvage vertical, you reach back with each hand toward your side/ waist and gather a double-fold of blanket. When pulled forward, they overlap a bit where you can hold them together with one hand. You can then adjust the free corners that remain in front by pulling them to front center and rolling them together with the waist wrap. Sylvester did not say that it was used for a specific purpose; he was simply sharing something with me.

Abe Conklin told me that the double selvage was reminiscent of the backbone of an animal's hide when full skins were worn as robes.
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Old 03-27-2009, 04:09 PM   #7
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Another example of some different styles of wearing a blanket.

Pawnee men - 1868
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Old 03-27-2009, 10:15 PM   #8
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From my own experience there is a lot of difference in how you wear a blanket depending on what you are doing. If it's cold, you want to cover up as much as you can. If you are moving around a lot you want it secure. If it is comfortable out, you may just need to carry it around with your hands free. Having spent the last winter without the heat on and living in a blanket, I can simply say, if you need an arm free to do something you wear it one way. If not you wear it another. If you need both free you wrap it around your chest and tuck it under your arms so it keeps you warm and you can still work without having to mess with it every five minutes. When I'm cold I don't worry about being called a woman! LOL! As a final point I have heard stories of men wearing blankets over both shoulders strictly to conceal weapons that would be obvious if the blanket was worn any other way.
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Old 03-27-2009, 10:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
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Another example of some different styles of wearing a blanket.

Pawnee men - 1868
On a different note, it looks to me that the guy second from the left is holding a chair/ table leg modified to be a club/ quirt/version of a tail stick. Seems to be a wrist strap at the bottom. I have seen examples of this before but I like finding new ones. Very nice!
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Old 01-25-2010, 04:25 PM   #10
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Old 02-20-2012, 02:38 PM   #11
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Old 12-10-2016, 11:45 AM   #12
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