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Old 10-02-2005, 06:06 PM   #1
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Cheyenne Origins of Gourd Dance?

I thought there might be some folks who may have an interest in what information appears on a Denver Art Museum website that talks about Gourd Dance as part of the "Cheyenne Visions II" exhibit.

The Gourd Dance
Mahao'oxenone-vohomo'ehestotse

The war shirt represents the Cheyenne Bow String Society, the original owners of the gourd dance songs. It once belonged to Ralph Whitetail, a ceremonial priest and member of the Cheyenne gourd clan.

The rattle is used in the gourd dance to mimic the sound of the Bow String warrior's quivers as they danced on the plains. Early rattles were made from dried gourds, but the Cheyenne began to make rattles from saltshakers, oilcans, and other common objects in the 1960s.

Origins of the Gourd Dance:
A long time ago, the wolf would come and talk to us, the Cheyenne. The Cheyenne Bow String Society would always go into war parties looking for the enemy, and the wolf felt sorry for them. He told the Bow Strings that he would give them special songs that would help them to be successful in battle.

While the wolf was teaching these victory songs to the Cheyenne warriors out on the plains, Kiowa warriors heard the Bow Strings singing. The Kiowa went up on a hill to see where the songs were coming from and looked down at the Bow Strings dancing. They danced up and down, bending their knees. As they danced, the bow quivers on their backs made a rattling noise.

The Kiowa warriors sneaked up on the Bow Strings, captured them, and took them to another place where they made the Bow Strings sing their victory songs all night. After they sang the songs, the Kiowa killed all of them. That is how the Kiowa stole the victory songs from the Cheyenne Bow Strings.

Today, these songs are known as gourd dance songs, and the Cheyenne use rattles to imitate the sound made by the bow quivers. There are many active gourd dance organizations, such as the Watonga Cheyenne Veterans and the Star Hawk Society of the Arapaho. The Cheyenne Bow String Society still exists and is getting stronger year by year.

Taken from: http://www.denverartmuseum.org/cheye...ilverGourd.htm
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Old 10-02-2005, 06:42 PM   #2
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Thumbs up Cheyenne Gourd Society

I have been on this website since June of this year and have not heard one word of the Cheyenne Gourd Society untill today!!!
I was begining to wonder if I was taught something that did not exist! I know that i have been to many dances around Concho,Colony and Watonga.
My Step father who is Cheyenne/Arapaho taught me and brought me into the circle when I was in the navy many years ago.
And recently when I found this website, i have read many posts but not one word of this society!
I am amazed at the depth of your knowledge Mr Historian I have read many of your posts which always exhibit thoughfullness and knowledge!

Wa do!
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Old 10-03-2005, 11:29 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josiah
I have been on this website since June of this year and have not heard one word of the Cheyenne Gourd Society untill today!!!
I was begining to wonder if I was taught something that did not exist! I know that i have been to many dances around Concho,Colony and Watonga.
My Step father who is Cheyenne/Arapaho taught me and brought me into the circle when I was in the navy many years ago.
And recently when I found this website, i have read many posts but not one word of this society!
I am amazed at the depth of your knowledge Mr Historian I have read many of your posts which always exhibit thoughfullness and knowledge!

Wa do!
Josiah,
Thanks for your kewl comments. Keep in mind however, that information and knowledge is available to anyone who takes the time to look for it.
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Old 10-03-2005, 06:05 PM   #4
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Historian,

In writing about gourd dance it is always important and courteous to acknowledge that there are different tribal versions about it's origin.

Again let me acknowledge that the Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne all have a version of how the gourd dance came to their respective tribes. The Ponca, Pawnee and Arapaho also have a version of a gourd dance in their tribal histories as well.

Let me preface this by stating that I am a proponent of Indian oral history and its dissemination to explain Native cultures and their histories. I also have relatives who are both Tsistsistas and Sotaae'o people.

___

"The text in the Denver Art Exhibit has a lot of holes in it."

1. "Original owners of gourd dance songs" is definitely debatable. As mentioned above, a type of gourd dance was done by the Ponca, Pawnee and Arapaho "perhaps" even earlier than the Cheyenne, negating a claim as original owners of gourd dance songs.
2. "The rattle is used in the gourd dance to mimic the sound of the Bow String warrior's quivers." Hmmm? Why not just use the quivers themselves? They were still common in the era that this text interpretation was supposed to have occured?
3. "...the wolf felt sorry for them. He told the Bow Strings that he would give them special songs that would help them to be successful in battle. . .The Kiowa warriors sneaked up on the Bow Strings, captured them. . . The Kiowa killed all of them." Perhaps the wolf was a spy?
4. ". . .they made the Bow Strings sing their victory songs all night. After they sang the songs, the Kiowa killed all of them. That is how the Kiowa stole the victory songs from the Cheyenne Bow Strings." Hmmm? In one night the Kiowa learned ALL their songs? Did they have a recorder? Even the most gifted of singers is not able to learn (verbatum) a entire collection of ceremonial songs in one setting.


In all actuality, the Kiowa already had the gourd dance and were using it as part of their annual sundance prior to meeting the Cheyenne in the Black Hills region (ca. mid 1700's).

_____



.... but it WAS a very interesting story!!!

Thanks for sharing it!
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Old 10-03-2005, 07:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhoMe
.... but it WAS a very interesting story!!!

Thanks for sharing it!
I know that was very entertaining. and why do all the songs have kiowa words????? is that why everyone sings kiowa gourd dance songs because somewere along the line all thoses tribes forgot those songs????
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Old 10-03-2005, 08:41 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Historian
A long time ago, the wolf...told the Bow Strings that he would give them special songs that would help them to be successful in battle.

And, then...

The Kiowa warriors sneaked up on the Bow Strings, captured them, and took them to another place where they made the Bow Strings sing their victory songs all night.
ROFLOL

I guess they didn't understand the songs 'cause they were in Kiowa. ;)

I agree with WhoMe....the wolf was a Kiowa spy. ;)
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Old 10-03-2005, 09:14 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Historian
Josiah,
Thanks for your kewl comments. Keep in mind however, that information and knowledge is available to anyone who takes the time to look for it.
Yes that is correct, but what I meant was inside of this forum I had only read about Kiowa origins of the gourd society.
It was good to see other versions and a wider view of the same dance...
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Old 10-04-2005, 12:28 AM   #8
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I thought that this topic might provoke some healthy and interesting discussion. I'm glad that it has served that purpose. Any time we can get some good exchanges of ideas, thoughts, and opinions, everyone gains something they didn't have before. A much broader view. Thanks for participating
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Old 10-14-2005, 03:30 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Historian
the Kiowa killed all of them. That is how the Kiowa stole the victory songs from the Cheyenne Bow Strings.
The Kiowa "killed all of them"?? lol that is why you are able to quote your fable today?

ROFLOL

If we "killed all of them", who was alive to pass on the long tale you are spouting?

:P
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Old 10-14-2005, 03:43 AM   #10
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Sadly...it's a fact that the moderators of this forum delete posts they don't agree with, so I don't know how long this post survives.

But, if you read these words...

Question how the Cheyenne version of the story has their warriors gaining "Victory in battle songs", and then immediatly losing a battle to the Kiowa that hostage them and force them to sing. :P

Question how the Cheyanne were "all massacred", yet their story is somehow still told. (If ya figure that one out, WE ALL want to talk to ya.)

Scary.

If this post is not deleted by a mod...Howdy! :)
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Old 10-14-2005, 04:12 AM   #11
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It's actually sad. The story as quoted above by Historian is rather a lamentable tale. Only joining the original story from time to time, and just enough to try to garner enough keywords to elicit recognition. Hardly edifying or prideful, it garners a pitiful emotion towards a tale of lost luck and doubtful pride...hardly compared to the actual story of the Gourd dance as told to any Kiowa child...


Quote:
"The Gourd Dance (Tdie-pei-gah) originated among the Kiowa in the 1700s. Oral history explains this dance was given to the Kiowa by a red wolf (Gui-Goodle-Tay) when the Kiowa still inhabited the area around what is now known as the Black Hills and Devils Tower area in South Dakota and Wyoming.

A Kiowa warrior became separated from the main camp. After traveling for many days, the warrior became weak and destitute from hunger. Near his final hour, he heard someone singing in the distance. He cautiously followed the sound until he came to the top of a hill. One the other side was a red wolf. This wolf stood on its hind legs as it sang one beautiful song after another. At the end of each song the red wolf gave a strong howl.

The warrior became entranced by the haunting melodies that ensued for the greater part of an afternoon. Toward dusk, the red wolf invited the warrior to come down for some food and water. While gaining his strength back he listened to the instructions of the spirit creature that saved him from death.

The red wolf instructed the warrior to take the song and dance back to his people as a gift. "These songs and dances will remain with the Kiowa as long as they uphold and continue their Kiowa traditions in a good way," counseled the red wolf. "Always remember me by giving a wolf howl at the end of each song." Thus, this request is honored to this day at the end of all Gourd Dance songs.

A society was formed that utilized the directions of the red wolf. It fell into place among the hierarchy of Kiowa warrior societies, made up of warriors and rough riders whose duty it was to police and protect their camps. This society also made sure the young warriors did not leave the camp prematurely in major buffalo hunts. Their ranks came from individuals from respected families. The principle ceremony of this society was the Gourd Dance. During their ceremony, the original songs given to the Kiowa by the red wolf and other society songs were sung.

In time the Kiowa were forced to give up their Northern Plains homeland by a larger Lakota and Cheyenne tribal alliance. As they moved south they kept this dance intact as well as their sacred Sun Dance (Ka-Do). In the late 1880s, the federal government forbid the Kiowa to pratice the Sun Dance, but the Kiowa Gourd Dance Clan continued as an important part of Kiowa culture. In the 1920s, the rights to do this dance were given to the Otoe Tribe. By the late 1930s, the Kiowa Gourd Dance Clan ceased to exist.

In 1955, a group of Kiowa men who remembered some of the songs and the dance revived the Kiowa Gourd Dance, presenting it at the American Indian Exposition in Anadarko, Okla. In January 1957, the Kiowa Gourd Dance Clan was officially organized. In the 1960s the popularity of the Gourd Dance spread across the southern half of the nation. The modern version of this dance is done in the afternoon of most Southern Plains-style pow wows.

Modern Gourd Dance regalia consists of a red and blue blanket draped over the shoulders. (This accessory represents night and day). Some dancers change the blanket to rest over the heart red during the day and blue after dark. A skunk berry (Ka-hole) and silver beaded bandolier fastened on the left shoulder is draped across the heart. The red skunk berry bandolier was added as a memorial tribute to a battle fought with Cheyenne warriors. The aftermath left the land covered with red blood and is represented by the red skunk berries. A handkerchief bundle of Indian perfume, gathered from the foothills, is tied to the back of the bandolier.

A metal rattle to accompany the drumbeat and a feathered fan usually are held in opposite hands. Normally Kiowa Gourd Clan members do not use real gourds in this dance because they are associated with the Native American Church ceremonies.

Traditionally dressed gourd dancers wear buckskin leggings and a long, red breechcloth. These are covered by a black fringed shawl wrapped above the black shawl to secure it. Today these are accompanied with a long sleeved shirt, bolo tie or tie.

Head attire can include hair wrapped with otter wraps, a roach or otter cap. Following Kiowa protocol, it is considered disrespectful to wear ball caps, T-shirts, cowboy hats or boots while participating in this dance. The four Kiowa headsman of this society urge its members to dress with dignity and discretion.

The Gourd Dance should be danced with pride and respect. It is important to remember it is a male warrior's dance and protocol should be observed. Women should never begin dancing before or in front of the men. However, when an individual is being honored, women may dance behind the honoree. A series of Buffalo Dance songs must follow immediately after the last Gourd Dance song is sung. This also follows Kiowa protocol.

Today three Kiowa Gourd Clans hold annual celebrations on or near July 4 when the days are the longest and the hottest. The Kiowa Gourd Clan is a prestigious men's organization consisting of veterans, doctors, lawyers, educators and other Kiowa men who will bring honor to the Kiowa people."

No stealing. No losing. No forcing to sing.

The Red Wolf gave hope and compassion.

The other story lends none.
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Old 10-14-2005, 04:29 AM   #12
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A big thank-you to our leaders keeping our legacy.
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Old 10-14-2005, 05:39 AM   #13
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To our Kiowa leaders:

I appologize for saying too much. I don't pretend to be in your place. It is a modern media and the other stories grate on one, especially when one knows.

I hope to have your patience some day.
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Old 10-14-2005, 06:05 PM   #14
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I am not sure why there is laughing at something from another tribe???
Is it because one man posted it here?
Or is the story funny???

All tribes have legends on how things are passed down...
To laugh at those legends because they are not your own is downright rude...
I have read through these threads and I see no laughing matter. I see an opinion and nothing else,
Something to ponder and say interesting
Not to laugh and make fun of!
I was taught by my Cheyenne father the gourd dance
But at no time did he say: We are the only tribe to dance this! He told me that several tribes dance this. I respected what he taught me and I dance with pride and honour because not only am I honouring him, But all the other warriors that never returned I am honouring them. This is no laughing matter
I dance with solemn dignity as they deserve!

We are respectfull of all ways even if they are not our OWN!

Last edited by Josiah; 10-14-2005 at 06:24 PM..
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Old 10-14-2005, 07:55 PM   #15
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Because the Cheyenne story implies we are thieves of something we own.

Don't think many Kiowa appreciate that tale, bud.
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Old 10-15-2005, 06:23 AM   #16
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And yet it is a tale and opinion
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Old 10-15-2005, 12:13 PM   #17
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It is because of men like all of you that our children will even know these stories and be able to have 'friendly' arguments as to origin. Thank you, I respect you.

These are the threads I enjoy the most out here. The one's where we discuss traditions and hopefully learn in the process. I recall another thread about Sun Dance and its origins. When someone who wasn't Lakota indicated their people had Sun Dance earlier than the Lakota there was criticism that they were incorrect.

When you get archeologists and anthropologists in a room and ask where our earliest ancestors on this continent came from you get disagreement. Dr. James Chatters, in his book "Ancient Encounters: Kennewick Man and the First Americans" touches on the very likely possibility based on current evidence that SIMULTANEOUS (relatively speaking) settlement from Peoples who migrated up South America to North America, as well as Peoples coming over the infamous Bering Strait, to sea faring Peoples, all contributed to the 'indigenous' gene pool of this continent. [Another great resource: James Adovasio's "The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archeology's Greatest Mystery".]

My point being that there is nothing inherently wrong with the concept that traditions were not only 'borrowed' from tribes having contact with each other; but the distinct possibility remains that they could have arisen and been developed separately, even simultaneously, with the evolution occuring within the respective tribes. I mention this because I hate to see us get so proprietary about a tradition that we disrespect each other. So far this discussion has been relatively cordial. I hope we can agree to disagree and appreciate that the legacies of all our peoples are in good hands since Historian, Who Me and Zotigh are trying to keep the oral traditions 'alive', even electronically. :)
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Old 10-15-2005, 01:08 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue Poet
It is because of men like all of you that our children will even know these stories and be able to have 'friendly' arguments as to origin. Thank you, I respect you.

These are the threads I enjoy the most out here. The one's where we discuss traditions and hopefully learn in the process. I recall another thread about Sun Dance and its origins. When someone who wasn't Lakota indicated their people had Sun Dance earlier than the Lakota there was criticism that they were incorrect.

When you get archeologists and anthropologists in a room and ask where our earliest ancestors on this continent came from you get disagreement. Dr. James Chatters, in his book "Ancient Encounters: Kennewick Man and the First Americans" touches on the very likely possibility based on current evidence that SIMULTANEOUS (relatively speaking) settlement from Peoples who migrated up South America to North America, as well as Peoples coming over the infamous Bering Strait, to sea faring Peoples, all contributed to the 'indigenous' gene pool of this continent. [Another great resource: James Adovasio's "The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archeology's Greatest Mystery".]

My point being that there is nothing inherently wrong with the concept that traditions were not only 'borrowed' from tribes having contact with each other; but the distinct possibility remains that they could have arisen and been developed separately, even simultaneously, with the evolution occuring within the respective tribes. I mention this because I hate to see us get so proprietary about a tradition that we disrespect each other. So far this discussion has been relatively cordial. I hope we can agree to disagree and appreciate that the legacies of all our peoples are in good hands since Historian, Who Me and Zotigh are trying to keep the oral traditions 'alive', even electronically. :)
Very well put!
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Old 10-18-2005, 12:00 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blue Poet
. . . My point being that there is nothing inherently wrong with the concept that traditions were not only 'borrowed' from tribes having contact with each other; but the distinct possibility remains that they could have arisen and been developed separately, even simultaneously, with the evolution occuring within the respective tribes. I mention this because I hate to see us get so proprietary about a tradition that we disrespect each other.

BP,

I agree that the possibility of evolution origins occuring at different times among different tribes. I have always acknowledged that there are several tribes who have the gourd dance in their oral histories.

But to publically display an accusatory statement "That's how the Kiowa STOLE our victory songs from the bow strings" for thousands of visitors to the read in the Denver Museum, IS LAUGHABLE!

Just like Columbus DISCOVERED the new world, IS LAUGHABLE!
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Old 10-18-2005, 12:31 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhoMe
BP,

I agree that the possibility of evolution origins occuring at different times among different tribes. I have always acknowledged that there are several tribes who have the gourd dance in their oral histories.

But to publically display an accusatory statement "That's how the Kiowa STOLE our victory songs from the bow strings" for thousands of visitors to the read in the Denver Museum, IS LAUGHABLE!

Just like Columbus DISCOVERED the new world, IS LAUGHABLE!
Yes, it is laughable; because it can't be proved!
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