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Old 07-01-2003, 07:00 PM   #1
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Gourd Dance, Dying? Or resurgance?

Here in the midwest there seems to be renewed interest in the Gourd Dance. My father is a member of the Star Hawk Society and he's PLEASED to have this make a comeback. What are your feelings on this?
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Old 07-01-2003, 09:58 PM   #2
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Growing Interest in Gourd Dance

I believe there is growing interest and prestige in Gourd Dancing. More people at pow wows are giving the Gourd Dancers the honor, respect and attention they deserve. The veterans and warriors who are members of gourd dance societies have earned the right to sing their songs, dance, and make the dance circle sacred. They perform a service and they should be viewed as people to be honored, supported, respected.

More attention should be paid by pow wow organizers and staff to keeping the tourists from taking photographs of Gourd Dancers. The general public has to be told that the songs and dances they are watching are sacred and that the ground upon which the pow wow dancers will dance is being blessed, and that dancing in the circle is a spiritual, healing activity, not entertainment.

All who enter the dance arena must be taught the proper etiquette and meaning of each part of the pow wow, that women who are not dressed out in regalia must wear long skirts and wear dance shawls to show respect for the sacred circle.

I realize that we must do outreach efforts to welcome in the newcomers and tourists in order to have them learn and experience the pow wow in a good way. More effort should be given to teaching the etiquette too.

I hate seeing women and girls walking around the circle in shorts, tank tops and sandals, no shawls, and kids running this way and that. This is disturbing to me because the circle is just as sacred as a church sanctuary. I don't do it and I always bring an extra shawl to share with a friend who forgot hers.
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Old 07-01-2003, 10:15 PM   #3
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Aho!

Shawl Lady!

Bless you! Thank you for speaking so eloquently!

Too many traditions are being lost! As the elders pass on it is up to the next generation to take up the responsibility to make sure that traditions are followed. Too many dance organizer's are letting SCOUT TROUPS dictate what goes on! I could not beleive my ears at a dance here in Chicago when they actually told the head drum they would NOT sing the flag song!

Gourd dancing is a little understood tradition and so many of the old societies have died off with our elders. I am happy to see it come back, but I worry that tradition is being lost.
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Old 07-02-2003, 02:14 AM   #4
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Aho wickedannabella! You are too kind. I merely speak from my heart and from what I have seen.

One good thing about the gourd dance and other war societies it they have kept very strictly to their own rules, thus carefully preserving their traditions handed down over the past 200 years and more. Any time in the past when I was learning proper traditional ways and made a mistake, I was very sternly corrected. Those lessons were learned quickly!! My feelings were sometimes hurt, because my errors came from ignorance, not from ego, but I got over it. I try to pass on in a gentle way what knowledge has been given to me by my Kiowa, Commanche, Ponca and other friends over the years.

I am not so lucky to have living ndn relatives to teach me my heritage, but I am not afraid to seek out the knowledge and to follow my heart down the Red Path. I try to treat others who are just learning about their heritage in a good way, a respectful way, and to simply help them on their own journey.

We are many! We come from many different tribal traditions. We have much rich spiritual, artistic, musical, and cultural gifts to share with each other and to pass on down to the next generation. Each gift is a small treasure that enriches the soul of the next person to receive it and pass it on, and so we are like links in a very long chain, coming down through the ages of time.

What is going on today is a little different from 100 years ago. Times change. We are now in a high tech age, the age of information. All the more important to share the traditions, the knowledge of ndn spirit, medicine, music, art, language, beliefs, and family values, so they are not lost in the present world. It is how we can achieve balance with our world and within ourselves.

All the unhappy, sick people living in cities need healing of their spirits. I send out my prayers for them to find their way, to connect with Mother Earth and Father Sky and all the living beings around us, and to heal themselves in the way the Creator wants.

I send out my prayers and blessings to all of you for your own peace of mind and health, and for that of your families.

Aho.
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Old 07-02-2003, 04:02 AM   #5
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I want to take this time to say something that some may not care for.

I want to say that I feel proud and honored to be a Veteran from a area that has The Gourd dance. I have been introduced a long time ago as a Gourd dancer. I have made mention from time to time what I want to say now.

Not all "Indian People" are the same and we don't all share the same traditions. When someone comes to you and asked what is going on or what is this Gourd dance answer them as you want to be answered yourself. We all too often think of these unknowing folks as WANNABES or new agers. This may not be the case. Our Gourd dance is traditionally from a certain area of the Indian world, Not worldwide. If you were to ask how they honor their Veterans I bet they could tell you their ways.

The "POWWOW" is kind of a relatively new thing. It came about from transIndian movement, Pan-Indianism, Wild west shows and another way for our families to get together. Most of our Tribes have their own ways of celebrating individual traditions. We need to remember when we go to anothers dance that they may not have the same ways. I know that I may have my own view point of how a Powwow must be but that is because I am from the OK influence. In OK we are influenced by many different Nations to make what we know. I remember when the Aunts and Uncles, Grandmas and Grandpas would all help Mom and Dad correct us. much too often this didn't just stop when I became an adult. I want to thank all of these passed and here today. I challenge all of the elders(anyone that is now an adult) to take these things we remember and help out the youngsters around us.

I will stop here because I'm starting to ramble on. But we don't all share the same traditions just because we are "Indian".
A-ho/Wa-do!!!!!!
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Old 07-03-2003, 04:31 AM   #6
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Ladies, from my experience Gourd dancing in the IL, IN, OH, MI area tends to run in cycles where it gains in popularity and then several years later slips again. Right now it is on a high mark and seems to be spreading. I applaud you ladies for your interest, support and most off all respect of a form of dancing that does not come from your own people. You have said some fine words here and I just want to add a few things as to what I have been taught over the years.

I am not Kiowa but have been taken in by a couple of different Kiowa families...I state this because IMHO even though several tribes claim to be the origin for gourd dancing I believe the Kiowa can claim that right. The Kiowa have several different gourd dance societies with Kiowa Gourd clan being the oldest and most 'traditional' (for lack of a better term). Many of the members of this clan are not veterans and this is the same for all the others as well...or at least to my knowledge. Military service is not required to gourd dance.

Now, as for the 'not taking pictures of gourd dancers' I can honestly say I have never seen this ask by any committee or MC at any dance I have attended, and I for one see no reason it should be. Gourd dance is not a ceremony but instead is a dance that is most often performed in a public welcoming location. I am not sure why someone would take a picture of gourd dancing other then someone they knew was out there, since it is not the most flashy of dances, but nonetheless I see no reason to prevent someone from snapping a PIC if they so desire.

I like the point (or at least I think this was the point) about the committee's making time for gourd dance. I know in this area often gourd dance is neglected for fear of boring the spectators to death. The downside is that most dances around here are put on at fairgrounds and those have to be rented and insurance purchased for the event and thus the committee's need the dollars the spectators provide, so all to often gourd dance is pushed to the side or only give a short window to be held. Another reason I see is because the dance is small and only has a Northern drum there thus no one to sing for those gourd dancers that might be in attendance. This all is changing with more gourd dancers being in the area and the realization by committee's that the dance is put on for the participants and not the spectators.

Just my opinions...take them or leave them
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Old 07-03-2003, 11:04 AM   #7
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Gourd Dancing

I know what you say is true, PB49, as I was taught by Kiowas in Okla and Arkansas about Gourd Dancing. There it was treated as no big deal and pretty much ignored by the spectators and other dancers.

Here in California, it is taken seriously. I dunno if times have changed or what. I was so impressed at the big Stanford Pow Wow at Palo Alto in May. There were several Gourd Dance Societies present and some well known vets and elders joined them in the Gourd Dancing and honoring songs. They honored the Navajo Code Talker, Joe Morris, and they had a special honoring for Lori Piestewa, the young Hopi Army private who was killed in Iraq. That really touched me. She was honored as a fallen warrior in a traditional way.

The MC had asked that no photos be taken during the Gourd Dancing and stated that this is a sacred ceremony. The Gourd Dancers consider their role to be both that of the welcomers, but also as the ones who bless the dance circle and call to Mother Earth, Father Sky, and Grandfather Sun to bless the circle with their presence.

There have been few women who danced in the circle or behind the men Gourd Dancers at these California pow wows during honoring songs. Very few Kiowa War Mothers out here, I guess.

You are quite right when you say the Kiowa Gourd Clan is the oldest. It is my understanding that, like the Black Leggings, this was a warrior society and one only had to be a man and invited to join. In recent times, the gourd dance societies have usually required that members be vets or served in some kind of warrior role.

Last year, there was a huge controversy when some women vets dressed out as male gourd dancers and got right in line with the men at some southern pow wows. The male members were incensed and some walked out. The mistake the women made was in not asking about their actions first and finding out how to be properly invited into the Gourd Dance, and what is proper behavior for them. Gourd dance societies have always been all-male and the men took it as an affront and stopped the drum. If you know any Kiowa Gourd Dancers, you understand what I am saying here.

I would like to hear what's going on with Gourd Dance societies around the country. How many have women members or women's auxilliary groups, such as War Mothers? How does a woman join such a group?

I am one of many women who enjoy gourd dancing and want to support and participate in the proper way with the Gourd Dancers.
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Old 07-03-2003, 11:23 AM   #8
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I've seen near fist fights break out between different clans over this issue. Things seemed to have settled down lately regarding that sticking point and I'm happy to see the Red on Right co-exist with the Red on Left. I look at it the same way I look at those who dance counter-clockwise. Not everyone on this planet does the same thing the same way. But the circle is sacred. That's where we set aside our differences and co-exist peacefully. Varying traditions should be honored and respected.




My 2 cents.
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Old 07-03-2003, 11:28 AM   #9
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I had not heard the phrases "Red on Right" or " Red on Left" before you mentioned them. What's that about???

At pow wows in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas, I observed that when the Northern Drum sings, the dancers go around clockwise. When the Southern Drum sings, the dancers do around counterclockwise (or do I have that backwards?). Anyway, people there did observe that tradition.

In Californa, everyone just goes clockwise, regardless of which drum is singing.
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Old 07-03-2003, 11:34 AM   #10
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Red on Right or Red on Left depends on which society you belong to. Some wear the red over their hearts, hence red on left. Others on the right. I'm not sure where it comes from other than certain societies do one or the other. The gourd dance society my family belongs to wears it over the heart.

Regarding the clockwise/counter-clockwise, I'd always heard it was related to the movement back in the 70's...sort of a make a statement thing. But then I saw it in Montana as a tribal thing and have been seeing it more and more.

All I can say is it gets REALLY confusing when both are going in the same dance circle!
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Old 07-03-2003, 12:21 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by Singerdad
Dancing counterclockwise has nothing to do with making a statement.
That's why I said "I'd always heard..." and didn't make it a statement of fact. Around here in the midwest, I don't think anyone knew and it was just sort of the "guess" at the time. I don't really have an opinion one way or another. I've heard everything from clans in opposition doing this so they can "keep an eye on the other" to basic tradition or in HONOR of something.

My grandmother used to like to pull my leg a lot too. She used to tell me it was because they were tired of looking at the backsides of the other dancers. hehehe :D

Anyway, I'm sure there are many reasons out there as to why this will happen. and you're right Singerdad, I can't say I remember women ever doing this.
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Old 07-03-2003, 02:17 PM   #12
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Red on Right...

Well, ya learn sumpthin ever day!!! Thank you for explaining about the red worn left or right and more insight into the clockwise versus counterclockwise dance movement in the circle.

Aho!
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Old 07-03-2003, 03:19 PM   #13
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Clockwise or not

I have been at pow wows in Texas, Okla and Arkansas where dancers would go in the direction indicated by the drum (Northern or Southern).

No one ever said anything negative and the dancers seemed to know what to do. The only ones confused were the general public or newbies who would suddenly realize they were "swimming upstream" and would have to turn 'round and go the other way.

It's interesting to hear about this protect angle from the 70's. That's a new one on me as far as going around counterclockwise.

Things that make ya go hmmmm.....

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Old 07-03-2003, 03:21 PM   #14
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Where I am from there is a growing interest in the gourd dance. The problem being everyone who claims to know anything, from anywhere, hasnt been willing to help people learn. In anything but particularly the gourd dance.

When a young man starts dancing in say grass dance, other young men who have been dancing longer go out to help him. I watched my little brothers learn to dance when they were just starting. But with women, that doesnt happen, we are expected to learn from our mothers aunts, sisters. Well I ,for example, didnt have anyone to teach me when I started. Or not really, I had a few people who offered critisism but they didnt offer an alternative, It wasnt until I stopped dancing for almost a year that anyone was willing to help.

Now understand me that I am only using this experiance as an example, but the point is the same. How are people to change behavior, in anything, if they dont have advice. I understand critisism as was said earlier it does make an impact. trust me I know. NOw when I go to pow wow I try to help anyone I can when they have questions. But the truth is I cant do it alone, and not many people go out of their way, and give any of their "pow wow time" to educate. I dont know I am rambling. I think i got my point across....:dontknow:
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Old 07-03-2003, 03:33 PM   #15
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BullCreekLdy you are SOOO right about people needing to help those who are learning.

When I was first learning how to Shawl dance, I didn't have any sisters to help me so my parent's lady friends helped. I, myself have ALWAYS helped anyone who's asked me. I think people are AFRAID today because there are so many people pointing fingers that they feel if they OFFER help, they will be in trouble some way, however if someone comes to me and asks, I always help.

Gourd Dancing is something my mom & I refer to as the "BOYS CLUB". We're literally peripheral entities in this. However, gourd dance itself seems to be more of a rite of passage than a social dance and therefore, more closely guarded. I remember one time a man asked my father about his rattle. It was a gourd rattle (not a can) and this man claimed it was a church rattle.

This gourd rattle was given to my father by an elder of the society he belongs to, and it wasn't a church item, but this man, of BSA origin claimed it was.

Some people get intimidated by this type of confrontation and makes them leary to help. I know I would never go up to someone and assume they wanted help. However, if they ask...that's another thing.

Talk about rambling....
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Old 07-03-2003, 03:51 PM   #16
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Many NAC members and roadmen that happen to also be gourd dancers have been/are making an effort to limit the use of a gourd rattle to the NAC. Asking/incourgaing gourd dancers to stick to using the metal cans for their rattles. Your BSA fella had probably had this conveyed to him and unfortunately was not very good at explaining why he had been told (and being a scout he was probably 'told' and not asked) not to use them. My Kiowa dad's (who has passed now) in particular encouraged this point at every dance we attended.
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Old 07-03-2003, 05:46 PM   #17
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How can we learn....

Bullcreekldy --- your comments about your experiences really struck a nerve with me. I had similar experiences too! As a matter of fact, I have not dressed out in 5 years because of something that happened to me -- really harsh personal criticsm. Now I am ready to get back in the circle -- in my regalia and just dance for the love of it.

I too try to help others who are newbies. I have many years' experience and a lot of compassion to give them. It helps us ALL if we share our knowledge in a good way instead of just criticizing or trying to put someone down to puff yourself up.

Besides, what goes around....comes around!!!!

Aho!
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Old 07-04-2003, 03:40 AM   #18
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I try to understand the frustration of those that aren't brought up with the Gourd Dance. I wear my Battleblancket with the Red on the left. That is just how I was taught and how my society does things. I also have both a Gourd and metal rattles. I also have a Church Gourd and fan. I use my dads church fan while Gourd dancing some times now. I will use my Gourd rattle when the event feels right and my metal rattle when the HeadGourd dancer has his or if it just doesn't feel right.

I have tried to help some, but find that many don't want to learn the right way. They seem to want to keep doing things their way. I will say nothing else and go away. Perhaps it's because I'm not an old one. I don't always know why we do things the way we do, but just because. I think that maybe too many people that aren't really in the know are trying to teach those that are. This may be a reason that the elders don't bother helping unless asked. Too many new agers and Wannabes out there doing their own thing trying to mix too many traditions, making a mess out of everything.

I will respect the (?) because that tells me that the person asking is wanting to know the right ways. They not wanting to go out there and look out of place. Those that know will usually shy away from these that obviously don't seem to know. Like wearing a hat, not showing due respect, improper clothing, not following protocol, etc. I believe that if anyone would just watch and learn the right ways before doing things would not get all fouled up.
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Old 07-04-2003, 12:40 PM   #19
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Gourd Dancing

What you say is so true, Bob. Too many people following different traditions or ones they or their teacher made up.

As a woman, I admire watching the men who are doing it right and showing respect for the old traditions. That makes me feel good and proud. I like to honor them by dancing on the edge of the circle with them, show them my support, and participate in honor dances. I do this on my own for now. But soon I hope to be invited to join a gourd dance society in the role of War Mother or auxillary or whatever the society has.

My feeling about this is very strong. I want to gourd dance for my husband who was wounded in Viet Nam and who is now a disabled vet. He was brave and selfless in that war and saved many men as an Army medic. He has a bunch of medals for his service, but that did not heal his inner wounds. He suffered physically and mentally in later years because of what happened to him in the war, but he never admitted it until he met me.

Now, he is disabled and I am his care-giver and am devoted to making him happy and comfortable. It is important to me to honor him because I know he was a fearless warrior in his younger days.

I have found healing for us both by dancing and by going to sweat lodge ceremonies as often as possible (he can't do either any more). We are both very involved in our local ndn community and have been supporting our local rehab facility for several years. By connecting to our roots and following the path shown to us by the Creator, we are made to feel good.

In turn, we help others to find their way to this path, the Red Path, where they connect to their roots and traditions. This is good too because the more people who learn about tribal traditions, respect them and follow them, the better for our community, our country, our world. I try to teach new agers and wannabes too, because their heart may be in the right place, but they are just ignorant. If they learn the right way, then it's better for them and for us. If they are just tourists and don't care, I make sure they learn about etiquette at least.

I have rambled on here and will quit now.

Aho!
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Old 07-04-2003, 03:52 PM   #20
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Bob,
That may be there are a lot of newagers Ill admit that. But what about those of us who one were to shy to ask fo help. Or in my situation, was blown off because I look white and people automatically assume I am asking because I want to act indian. And dont say that I am making assumtions people flat out told me that they didnt feel a white girl needed to act indian. that was why I stopped. it was only when I got involved with people who were previously labeled "new" and "inexperianced" in the native world. Only when I got involved with them was i taught anything. I dont know Im rambling but its different for men. I hate to say it but a lot of women are catty and witchy especially if we feel our territory is being invaded on if you get my meaning. I dont know Im rambling so I will stop now
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