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Forum Home - Go Back > Pow Wow Arena > Men's Dance Styles > Straight Dancing Is straight dance a "war dance?" Is straight dance a "war dance?"

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Old 12-16-2004, 05:45 PM   #1
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Is straight dance a "war dance?"

I was looking at articles worn by straight dancers. Several of the articles worn have symbolism worn by ancient warriors.

Starting from the roach, roach feather, turban, turban plume, bear claw necklace, otter drag, bandoliers, quirt, cane whistle.... even designs, are all related to ancient warriors and war societies.

They are all have a clear meaning that can be interpreted.

Most of all they had to be earned through battle in defense of their people.

Even the songs talk of war encounters with the enemy. These songs also give a clear record of tribal history.





What's your take?
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Old 12-20-2004, 03:37 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhoMe
I was looking at articles worn by straight dancers. Several of the articles worn have symbolism worn by ancient warriors.

Starting from the roach, roach feather, turban, turban plume, bear claw necklace, otter drag, bandoliers, quirt, cane whistle.... even designs, are all related to ancient warriors and war societies.

They are all have a clear meaning that can be interpreted.

Most of all they had to be earned through battle in defense of their people.

Even the songs talk of war encounters with the enemy. These songs also give a clear record of tribal history.





What's your take?
I think it is.

From what I've been told and what I've heard......I believe it to be.

It is after all, a warrior organization....or used to be.
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Old 12-21-2004, 07:45 PM   #3
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Lightbulb Need to define "War Dance"

Before answering the question, "Is Straight Dance a War Dance?", I think probably the first thing that would need to be done is to define the term "War Dance."

In some folks mind, a "War Dance" could be done in preparation for war, such as some of the common movie stereotypes of warriors performing a dance BEFORE they fight. Some northeastern tribes had such a war dance, during which they struck a pole with a weapon, making a vow to vanquish their enemy.

For others, a "Victory Dance" or "Scalp Dance" during which women would display the war trophies of their brothers, husbands and sons, would be considered a "War Dance".

However, from what I understand, the origins of the old Omaha Hethuska dance and other tribal traditions like it that have evolved to become the "Straight Dance" style , was a dance done AFTER the warriors had come back from a fight or battle, to show what had taken place on the battlefield. If that is the definition, then I feel very definitely "Straight Dance" has it's origins as a type of "War Dance."
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Old 10-01-2012, 09:55 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Historian View Post
Before answering the question, "Is Straight Dance a War Dance?", I think probably the first thing that would need to be done is to define the term "War Dance."

In some folks mind, a "War Dance" could be done in preparation for war, such as some of the common movie stereotypes of warriors performing a dance BEFORE they fight. Some northeastern tribes had such a war dance, during which they struck a pole with a weapon, making a vow to vanquish their enemy.

For others, a "Victory Dance" or "Scalp Dance" during which women would display the war trophies of their brothers, husbands and sons, would be considered a "War Dance".

However, from what I understand, the origins of the old Omaha Hethuska dance and other tribal traditions like it that have evolved to become the "Straight Dance" style , was a dance done AFTER the warriors had come back from a fight or battle, to show what had taken place on the battlefield. If that is the definition, then I feel very definitely "Straight Dance" has it's origins as a type of "War Dance."
Had to bump this one such an excellant reply...
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Old 11-06-2012, 09:37 PM   #5
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Reference Historian's last paragraph, I agree. In addition, Sylvester Warrior said that the Ponca hethuska members were supposed to care for the elderly, widows, and orphans, the organization being a benevolent one. Face it; there were no welfare checks in the "Hide Period" of Indian history. He claimed that the membership was mostly warriors, and furthermore, consisted of men who could hunt and who were craftsmen in order to provide food, clothing, and shelter for those in need.

Bill Wahnee (RIP) was a Comanche fancy dancer and respected straight dancer who settled in Arizona in his later years. During the April, 1998, Arizona State University Powwow, he sponsored a straight dance contest special. He would have been about 60 years old at that time. Wahnee picked some judges who weren't necessarily dancers, and he sat them down and told them exactly what to look for during the contest. I didn't know he did this until the contest was completed and the awards given. I placed in the contest, and one of the committee members asked me if I knew what Wahnee was wanting the judges to see. I said, "No, what's the deal?" I was told that Wahnee's understanding of the dance was that it showed warfare, at least in the sense of a battle. Wahnee expected a good dancer would start by heading toward the circle center. In this way he would be acting as a scout. Then, he could return toward the periphery of the circle "to report" what he saw of the enemy. Then, all dancers would move forward circling the drum, or if a powwow with no central drum, the circle center. This moving of all dancers indicated the battle taking place. The tail stick was not to touch "Mother Earth," for that was not its purpose. A dancer was not to turn an individual circle, as that would be turning his back to the enemy. At song's end, this would indicate the end of the battle, except for the coda (the tail). The tail would demonstrate the checking of whether all the enemy were truly dead and not pretending.

Bill Wahnee wanted the dancers to be smooth and in charge of their movements, but he intended that the dancers also get low on occasion, not to constantly dance "straight" or upright "like a telephone pole."

I wanted to record this. I don't know who Wahnee's teachers were, but I think this is an interesting way to think about the straight dance and a unique way to approach each song, physically and psychologically.
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Last edited by Gledanh Zhinga; 11-09-2012 at 05:45 PM..
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Old 11-08-2012, 09:38 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gledanh Zhinga View Post
Reference Historian's last paragraph, I agree. In addition, Sylvester Warrior said that the Ponca hethuska members were supposed to care for the elderly, widows, and orphans, the organization being a benevolent one. Face it; there were no welfare checks in the "Hide Period" of Indian history. He claimed that the membership was mostly warriors, and furthermore, consisted of men who could hunt and who were craftsmen in order to provide food, clothing, and shelter for those in need.

Bill Wahnee (RIP) was a Comanche fancy dancer and respected straight dancer who settled in Arizona in his later years. During the April, 1998, Arizona State University Powwow, he sponsored a straight dance contest special. He would have been about 60 years old at that time. Wahnee picked some judges who weren't necessarily dancers, and he sat them down and told them exactly what to look for during the contest. I didn't know he did this until the contest was completed and the awards given. I placed in the contest, and one of the committee members asked me if I knew what Wahnee was wanting the judges to see. I said, No, what's the deal?" I was told that Wahnee's understanding of the dance was that it showed warfare, at least in the sense of a battle. Wahnee expected a good dancer would start by heading toward the circle center. In this way he would be acting as a scout. Then, he could return toward the periphery of the circle "to report" what he saw of the enemy. Then, all dancers would move forward circling the drum, or if a powwow with no central drum, the circle center. This moving of all dancers indicated the battle taking place. The tail stick was not to touch "Mother Earth," for that was not its purpose. A dancer was not to turn an individual circle, as that would be turning his back to the enemy. At song's end, this would indicate the end of the battle, except for the coda (the tail). The tail would demonstrate the checking of whether all the enemy were truly dead and not pretending.

Bill Wahnee wanted the dancers to be smooth and in charge of their movements, but he intended that the dancers also get low on occasion, not to constantly dance "straight" or upright "like a telephone pole."

I wanted to record this. I don't know who Wahnee's teachers were, but I think this is an interesting way to think about the straight dance and a unique way to approach each song, physically and psychologically.
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Old 11-11-2012, 10:04 PM   #7
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That sharing of knowledge from Mr. Zhinga was very inspiring!!!

Being in the circle does carry a different set of expectations from others, sometimes these things have carried over from pre-reservation days.
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Old 11-27-2012, 02:14 PM   #8
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Thumbs up Straight Dance traditions

GREAT, GREAT INFO!!

Thank you for posting this information. Maybe this information will weigh on some peoples mind before they enter that circle!

.
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Old 02-20-2014, 07:25 PM   #9
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Quote:
However, from what I understand, the origins of the old Omaha Hethuska dance and other tribal traditions like it that have evolved to become the "Straight Dance" style , was a dance done AFTER the warriors had come back from a fight or battle, to show what had taken place on the battlefield
I agree. Its my understanding that, back in the day, only those who participated in the war party could participate in the post-war party dance. If you weren't a part of the war party, you had nothing to demonstrate. Course though, my recollection is long in years.
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Old 02-21-2014, 10:57 AM   #10
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Whaddo Wino?

We are too far from the tree, so to speak, to know what the early dances were like. In "The Omaha Tribe," Fletcher & LaFlesch talk about the hethuska as having the drum to the right of the entry, not in the center. We don't know what that drum looked like. In those days, we assume there were no benches or chairs, so everyone was sitting or hunkering. They claim that a dancer would get up and enact by dancing what he had done in battle.

Life is full of changes. After the Ponca removal, I think there were many hethuska type dances in Oklahoma to give the people a sense of togetherness. The Ponca had more than one round house. The dance was given to the Osage by the Kaw and the Ponca. The Pawnee had their own version. For the Ponca and Osage, I think the drum was centered, and the dance was a group dance with the extended families seated behind their male participants. Instead of warfare, the dance became more social and the giveaway became more important. The Ponca were great song keepers, the songs being sort of a living archive of previous leaders and battle events.

I used to have a recording of the respected Omaha, Walter Spotted Back Hamilton (RIP) singing a hethuska song, and he was in a fairly high voice register. That was surprising to me. I danced with the Nebraska Winnebago (not too many miles from the Omaha rez) in 1957, and they sang many hethuska songs at their powwow in the same voice register that the Oklahoma singers currently use...and that the Omaha White Tail drum uses nowadays.

In conclusion, no one knows 10% of anything.
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Last edited by Gledanh Zhinga; 02-22-2014 at 03:40 PM..
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Old 02-24-2014, 07:52 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Gledanh Zhinga View Post
We are too far from the tree, so to speak, to know what the early dances were like. In "The Omaha Tribe," Fletcher & LaFlesch talk about the hethuska as having the drum to the right of the entry, not in the center. We don't know what that drum looked like. In those days, we assume there were no benches or chairs, so everyone was sitting or hunkering. They claim that a dancer would get up and enact by dancing what he had done in battle.

Life is full of changes. After the Ponca removal, I think there were many hethuska type dances in Oklahoma to give the people a sense of togetherness. The Ponca had more than one round house. The dance was given to the Osage by the Kaw and the Ponca. The Pawnee had their own version. For the Ponca and Osage, I think the drum was centered, and the dance was a group dance with the extended families seated behind their male participants. Instead of warfare, the dance became more social and the giveaway became more important. The Ponca were great song keepers, the songs being sort of a living archive of previous leaders and battle events.

I used to have a recording of the respected Omaha, Walter Spotted Back Hamilton (RIP) singing a hethuska song, and he was in a fairly high voice register. That was surprising to me. I danced with the Nebraska Winnebago (not too many miles from the Omaha rez) in 1957, and they sang many hethuska songs at their powwow in the same voice register that the Oklahoma singers currently use...and that the Omaha White Tail drum uses nowadays.

In conclusion, no one knows 10% of anything.
"In conclusion, no one knows 10% of anything."
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Old 04-04-2014, 09:34 PM   #12
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Lightbulb Straight Dance

Historian is very accurate about the straight dance.I began dancing in 1944 in Gallup N.M. Only warriors and Veterans were allowed to straight dance.The straight dance relives the Warrior's hunt for the enemy,the tracking,looking and ducking low to not be seen.Back then the youngsters were allowed to fancy,hoop,traditional and jingle. My how times have changed. But I am very honored to see the youth of today honor our ways and dance.Remember please always honor all elders.You never know how hard the Old red road was for them.
Wado
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Old 04-05-2014, 03:18 AM   #13
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In conclusion, no one knows 10% of anything.
There's your bottom line.
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