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Old 04-02-2009, 12:41 PM   #1
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Otter Dragger

This major element of the Hethuska dance clothes called to’-zhan-ke in Ponca, is said to be derived from the otter tail component which was attached to the Grizzly Bear Claw Necklaces and hung down the back.

Grizzly Bear Claw Necklace showing the otter tail attached - Mesquakie (aka Fox) - 1860


Other examples of Grizzly Bear Claw Necklaces with otter tail attached.

William Faw Faw - Otoe - no date


Black Dog – Osage – 1876


Fish Rub Against Something - Sauk & Fox - 1896


Roaming Chief - Pawnee - 1902


With the evolution of time, materials availability and personal artistic expression, the otter tail or otter dragger became a separate component.

Early otter trailers were just strips of otter fur about two to three inches wide, taken from the center of the otter’s back, extending to the tip of the tail, with beaded medallions or rosettes and one or two feather attachments. It has been said that historically, as the otter tail had evolved to a separate component, the only Ponca Hethuska dancers to wear the otter tail were the appointed Tail Dancers.

Osage man with Otter Dragger hanging over his right shoulder - no date


Guards The Land with Otter Dragger in left hand – Osage – 1923


In "The Ponca Tribe", James Howard states,

“Tied at the dancer’s neck, so as to fall down his back and stream out behind him when he dances, is a long otterskin dance tail, ornamented with beaded discs and eagle feathers.”

“The thongs used to tie this ornament about the neck are concealed by the dancer’s neckerchief. The Ponca claim to have introduced this otterskin tail into the Oklahoma area, and OYB (Obie Yellow Bull) said that formerly the otterskin was twisted and sewn round like a rope. Those tails used at present however are flat.”

(Howard, 1965, p. 64)

Today, otter trailers among the Ponca and Osage are still made from the center of the otter fur from head to tail, however it is usually about three to four inches wide and backed with wool broadcloth. With ribbon appliqué binding on either side and edge beadwork to protect the ribbon from wear, the completed piece is usually four to six inches wide at it’s widest point.

In reference to the Osage otter trailers, Alice Callahan states,

“At the back, hanging from the neck to the feet, is the otter trailer decorated to each individual’s taste.”...“Many of the otter decorations reflect the family symbols or the life of the individual wearing the otter.”
(Callahan, 1990, p. 112)

Bacon Rind with Otter Dragger tied to the bandolier in front (For possible photographic effect.) - Osage - 1880


Osage men (Bacon Rind sitting on left, has Otter Dragger hanging off his left shoulder.) - no date


Osage men (Dancer on left has Otter Dragger hanging over his left shoulder.) - no date


Osage man (Dancer has Otter Dragger hanging over his left shoulder.) - no date


John Wood with Otter Dragger hanging over his left shoulder - Osage - 1910


Osage Otter Dragger and Dance Trailer


Beaded medallions, loom-beaded strips, round mirrors, stamped trade-silver pins and feather dangles are some of the decorative elements which finish the Otter Dragger. Often if the straight dancer is a veteran he will display his military service ribbons, medals, awards or devices in a strategic location on the Otter Dragger. I've also seen a number of straight dancers wear the military service ribbons of a deceased relative, to honor their memory and service.


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"Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

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Old 04-04-2009, 11:55 AM   #2
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Some more examples of the Otter Tail still attached to the Grizzly Bear Claw Necklaces.

Pawnee man - 1868


Sun Chief - Pawnee - no date


Ralph Week, Eagle Chief - Pawnee - no date


Eagle Chief - Pawnee - no date


Roaming Chief - Pawnee - 1916
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Old 01-25-2010, 03:15 PM   #3
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"Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

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Old 01-28-2010, 12:21 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Historian View Post
This major element of the Hethuska dance clothes called to’-zhan-ke in Ponca, is said to be derived from the otter tail component which was attached to the Grizzly Bear Claw Necklaces and hung down the back.

Grizzly Bear Claw Necklace showing the otter tail attached - Mesquakie (aka Fox) - 1860
I just recently saw a guy wearing a claw necklace and otter dragger that look EXACTLY like this one, beaded down one side in the same pattern. Man that was sweet!! Unique, the only one like it at the dance and haven't seen one like it since!!!
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Old 05-20-2010, 11:22 AM   #5
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In 2007, I was asked to be a consultant in identifying artifacts from the Rogers and Mary Aston Collection, Roswell Museum and Art Center, New Mexico. They had a nice claw necklace with otter, but unfortunately the provenance and age were unknown. Interestingly, a couple of beaded medallions were on the reverse side of the otter and would face the wearer's back when worn...a special meaning that I wondered about.
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Old 11-29-2011, 03:08 PM   #6
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