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-   -   Otter vs. hairplate drag? (http://forums.powwows.com/f13/otter-vs-hairplate-drag-20521/)

WhoMe 06-28-2004 02:09 PM

Otter vs. hairplate drag?
The one dance item that distinguishes southern from nothern "traditional" dancing, is the "drag" that hangs down the back of traditional southern men dancers.

I have noticed that most of the northern straight dancers have an otter skin drag (ie. Ponca, Osage, Pawnee, Otoe, Kaw and Quapaw). The otter drag on these dancers is either decorated or left plain. I wonder if the decorations have meaning (such as some dancers wearing combat medals)?


Southwestern Oklahoma Tribes use the hairplate disk drag more commonly (ie. Comanche, Kiowa, Wichita, Delaware, Apache). The majority of these discs sets are round and descend in size the closer the disk is to the ground.

Because we live in modern times, some straight dancers have a set of both. I wonder if this is because the dancer belongs to more than one tribe or is it just his personal preference.

What is the story on the two types of drags?

luvstraightdancrs 06-28-2004 04:51 PM

My son has both. He wears the otter, mainly because his grandpa told him too. That it was part of being Otoe. He also wears the hairplate drag more recently because he is 6'5" and otters aren't that big. That's the main reason for the hairplate drag. My son in law if also over 6', so he wears the hairplates as well -- he is also kiowa though.

Straightdancerinaz 06-28-2004 06:56 PM


Originally Posted by luvstraightdancrs
My son has both. He wears the otter, mainly because his grandpa told him too. That it was part of being Otoe. He also wears the hairplate drag more recently because he is 6'5" and otters aren't that big. That's the main reason for the hairplate drag. My son in law if also over 6', so he wears the hairplates as well -- he is also kiowa though.

Really? I've found AND purchased two otters on Ebay that we're well over 6 ft long!! The last one I bought was 7ft in length!!!!!!

I paid $80 for that one.....what a steal!!!!!!!!!

sookout sh'nob 06-29-2004 08:36 AM

Big Canadian otter is the way to go!

luvstraightdancrs 06-29-2004 02:16 PM

All I find on Ebay are about 45-48 inches. Have bought a couple of them for otter caps. I did find one that was 55 once. Guess I just can't find them at the right time. I keep looking though. Crazy Crow had one at Red Earth that was 6' but they wanted $350 for it. Too much for my wallet to handle at that time. If you see any more...let me know.

Sharky 06-30-2004 01:24 PM

I dance southern straight and wear the Otter drag. Most of the guys I know at powwows around here use the Otter drag decorated with either beadwork, mirrors, or conchos, so it dosn't seem to be just a northern thing. In my society dance in Oklahoma all full time members wear Otter Hats and Otter drags. Is this different in other areas? Anyway I personnaly like my Otter drag, he keeps me company.

WhoMe 07-01-2004 02:24 PM

I have noticed that a lot of men who are not from the tribes of No. Oklahoma tend to mix their straight dance outfits up "intertribally." Whereas, down in Oklahoma, you can look at a straight dancer: his drag, ribbon work design, moccasins, feather placement, bandolier placement, leggings fold, breech-cloth placement, beadwork design and use of garters - to tell what tribe he is from.

In learning about the straight dance, there are symbolic reasons why each article is put on and a reason why they are positioned by traditional straight dancers.

Yet, most straight dancers cannot tell you why they wear an otter drag or why they wear a hairplate drag.

Any comment?

osagesooner 07-01-2004 04:06 PM

From what I understand the Otterhide drop is one of the requirements that go along with the ilonshka/hethuska/heluska society. That is why you see most "northern oklahoma" straight dancers have an otterhide as they come from the respective tribes, i.e. pawnee, otoe, ponca, and osage. All what have you, "heluska tribes".

I know that osages dress different from other tribes, and we even dress different from each other, hominy and pawhuska dress differently from greyhorse people. I've never questioned these differences, just always been aware of them. That, and the fact that i was told to "quit asking so many questions" when i was younger.

Good question though, i'd have to ask around some more.

Just my thoughts on subject.

CHEROSAGE 07-02-2004 04:01 AM

I too have otter drags and I have made my sons hairplate drags, for my wifes Apache family. When they are grown and want to continue to dance I will help them make an otter drag. We do wear an otter turbin as well as a roach alternately. (Not to be confused with some old style Sauk/Fox that wear them together.) I hope that the otters will be affordable and large enough. I would like to find 1 or 2 of these long otters since I am 6'3'. My otter that I now wear is quite long about 5 1/2' long. My dads turbin otter and my turbin otter were not quite as long. My sons turbins were small otters, which they out grew a while back. It is hard to keep up with them. Our eldest now has his own family, he wants to come back and dance again.

I was taught that we wear the otter turbin and drag to honor the otter. I was taught that the otter was the one that help GOD get the grains of sand from the bottom of the water when the earth was covered by the water. These sand grains were what GOD created the land for Humans to live on. Not sure if this is fact or just a story to appease my childhood questions. I too do many things and wear things that I'm not sure about but was told this is just the way it is.

Historian 07-06-2004 02:05 PM

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.

Gledanh Zhinga 01-26-2007 09:59 AM

In the pre 9-11 days, sometimes there were practical reasons. I have flown to Oklahoma to dance on several occasions. I kept my outfit in the overhead, not the plane belly. The hairplate is more easily packed than the otter, and takes up less room. Also, a handful of dancers who fly will pack a Pendleton saddle blanket instead of a full sized one.

I haven't flown to dance since 9-11. I doubt whether a guy could carry his regalia on board nowadays. Airport security might think a scarf slide is like a box cutter.

Redstone 01-26-2007 12:02 PM

I tend to alternate. I usually will wear my hairplates with my Comanche clothes, and the otter drag with my ribbonsuit.

The other note with Gledanh Zhinga, it does seem to have become difficult flying with your regalia. I never had any problem going across country as I do a carry on. The only problem I run into was being jacked up so to speak at the Lawton airport from an overzealous guard, but rescued from their boss. My last trip home last year, I heard the guy had been fired from other incidents, and that it shouldn't be to much of a problem now. Of course I shipped my stuff last time and it cost me an arm and leg too.

Sorry for the off topic portion here.:shades_sm

Privateer6 01-26-2007 12:58 PM


Originally Posted by Gledanh Zhinga (Post 863418)
I haven't flown to dance since 9-11.....Airport security might think a scarf slide is like a box cutter.

Or a Japanese throwing star!:shades_sm

Fat Albert 01-26-2007 05:17 PM

I had a problem with them letting me through the airport the last time I flew a couple years back. They did not like my roach pin so I had to put it in the suitcase to go into the hold. Strange what they focus on since I had a pocket knife with my stuff that I use to cut ties and so on if I need it. Duhhhh!

Redstone 01-26-2007 06:24 PM

Well Albert, true isn't it. Mine was over a beautiful expensive flute that was given to me as a gift. They thought I'd use it as a weapon, but they let the guy with rastifin hair and guitar through before me. Of course the only lethal force I could use would be that I can't play the thing and the tune would have been awful.

WhoMe 01-29-2007 09:00 AM

Anybody know of good silver workers who can put "quality" silver rosette drags together.

Right off hand Lee "Smitty" Smith and Larry Kincer come to mind.

Anybody else?

straightboy 01-29-2007 11:23 AM

There is a guy from the Dallas, Ft. Worth area that is doing some great work. His name is Dick Green. He has been setting up at most local DFW pow-wows.

Fat Albert 01-29-2007 11:57 AM

There an obvious guy out in Anadarko (thatís where I see him) I think from the Cesar family but I can't remember his first name... I don't know if he does plate sets or not since I see him with a lot of pins but his work is solid and well composed. Also out in that area is Carl Jennings when he is pounding silver. I know he does sets for drops. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
From <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:City w:st="on">Bastrop</st1:City> <st1:State w:st="on">Texas</st1:State></st1:place> is Chris Klink (I think is how he spells it) but often times he does not back hammer his commercial work. He will though and is good on custom work if you tell him exactly what you want.<o:p></o:p>

Paul G 01-29-2007 12:58 PM

Why is otter used as opposed to some other animal?

Someone asked me that recently and I've never thought about!

Fat Albert 01-29-2007 01:07 PM

I was always told it had everything to do with the otters relationship to water. Water is so important to everything in the dance and life that the symbols should be related to it as well. I have heard other stories about the otter being fast and clever and all of that... but the water relationship is what I hear from the old timers.

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