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Puzzled Questions about Dancing/Singing

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  • Puzzled Questions about Dancing/Singing

    Several have asked, in private and in public, that I start a new thread with this post that was made in the "Chiefs and Maidens" thread (Native News).

    I am not really sure where the best place would be to put this thread but Chit Chat is the most general posting area, so here it is:

    I have been reading both the "Chiefs and Maidens" and the "women dancing pregnant" threads with interest.

    I received teachings about what dancing is and what the circle is about which seem to put me at vast odds with most of the posters. Up until now I have kept my silence.

    I have been puzzled at why what I hear is so different from what I was taught... and the puzzlement raises questions:

    Is no one taught about personal power? About the importance of controlling one' s power in the circle? About how the circle is a place of energy - which can hold both good and bad depending on who and what has been let into the circle?

    Or is what people are doing now like the chimookemon dances, where it's about the right steps and the right clothes, the right beat and singing words that please the ear?

    I have other questions that radiate out from these basic ones, but these are the questions that are at the center.

  • #2
    My initial post to the first part was:

    "I'm really glad that you brought this up. I'd like to see how others respond to the questions you posed. I was taught about personal power and responsibility... and that you remain true to those principles no matter where you are."
    Not everyone follows this. From dancing during "certain" times, to having hatred for someone and dancing it, to wishing ill on others, to copying other people's beadwork, outfits, and such... it exists. People do it. When I observed it I was just floored. I know not everyone was brought up the same, but what happened to general principles of respect?

    My post to the second part was:

    "That's a tough one"

    Could you elaborate a little more? I started thinking about it and didn't know which direction you were wanting it to go in...
    Last edited by Singing Otter; 08-13-2006, 01:56 AM.
    SHAKE IT!!!!


    • #3
      Originally posted by Singing Otter
      Not everyone follows this. From dancing during "certain" times, to having hatred for someone and dancing it, to wishing ill on others, to copying other people's beadwork, outfits, and such... it exists. People do it. When I observed it I was just floored. I know not everyone was brought up the same, but what happened to general principles of respect?

      My post to the second part was:

      "That's a tough one"

      Could you elaborate a little more?
      Since reading some of the responses in other threads it seems that I have very different teachings, so I suppose I should start with what those teachings were.

      Although I am in my 50th year, I -in no way- consider myself an elder. My teachings basically stopped in my early teens when my Grampa walked on. What I have learned since then has come slowly, although the things I have kept to are the things that have added to the basis I was given.

      In the way I was taught, there are things that have life and things that are "not life". Although I am not a fluent speaker of Nishnabek, I do know many words and phrases. How a person says things depends on whether the thing one is speaking of is animate (lives) or is inanimate. All things are classified into these two categories. A strawberry is living, an apple is not. A tree is living, just the leaf of a tree is not. Regalia is living, regular clothing is not.

      All life (seen and unseen) has power. This power can be good or not good. People are different from other living things because they can control their power. Uncontrolled power can have unforeseen and unintended effects.

      From this basis, I was taught that the circle (arbor was what I learned but I use the general term circle here since this is what seems to be common to most people) is a place where power is both present, expressed and created. The power of the living within the circle (regalia, people, drums, the voice of the drum, the sound of the singing) can be good or not good and is mostly dependent on how well the people involved can control/influence their power.

      These teachings guide how I do things. Here is an example. I am working on making some regalia for my (Irish born) wife. Like all married couples, we have good days and we have not-so-good days. If I do not have good thoughts of her I do NOT work on her regalia that day. I am putting energy into something that is coming to life. The power that this life has will be brought into the circle. There it will affect others. Wearing the regalia will affect my wife.

      Another example. Although precious little on my power chair would be considered alive, even in the Nishnabek language, this chair is very alive to me. My chair has a name (Manidoons) which has a personality. I depend on Manidoons to get me places and he has heart - he will tackle the roughest terrain and try his best to carry me where I want to go. This is why I always ask if Manidoons will be allowed in the circle. More than just the weirdness of seeing a short round dude scooting around the circle in a power chair, I am responsible for bringing Manidoons power into the circle.

      Obviously, this is how I believe. These are the ways my life is lived. I have no way of knowing if this is how the lives of others are lived. Although this difference is probably why when questions like "should a woman dance during certain times" or "should regalia be used in other ways outside of the circle" or "how many sets of regalia does one have" causes a different response in my mind than what I have seen written here.

      Singing Otter, does this help explain a little more about what my questions are about?



      • #4
        Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass..It's about learning to dance in the rain. for me and the wolf


        • #5
          I understand. That sheds alot of light on it and I agree. I didn't really know my grandparents, all but one passed away long before I was born. What I've learned has been from my parents, older heads in the family, and along the way.

          When it comes to working on things, I'm the same way. I don't like to "funk" up stuff. Some people think it's peculiar, some think it's ol' school but it's just the way mom taught me. She's taught me to be that way nomatter what it is.... from sewing to beading to doing/making stuff for people, that if I'm angry, troubled, sick, etc. not to work on anything. I pray before I start work on a piece that I know is going to be apart of someone's dance clothes or something they're going to use often. I've always been that way.

          I learned about the "not good" power of the circle early on. I went out to dance I started feeling really sick. I looked in the direction that it was coming from and there was this woman beside me. I remembered her because she had touched me earlier. That taught me an invaluable lesson.

          It's funny that you should mention living vs nonliving things. This is one of the conversations I had with my dad before he passed on. We were alike in our perceptions. Not everyone believes this way... and when they find out that you do, they treat you as if you're cracked. I wonder if this is because of conditioning, cultural bast*rdization and genocide, etc.... Dad told me that different people have different truths. One is no better than the other... but when you KNOW, you can't go back to not knowing... that we should be thankful for the way we see things. lol It keeps the world from being boring.

          Your chair is an interesting example. I guess it's because even though I wear a prosthesis, I don't consider it being alive.... just an inanimate extension of myself. There are things that I consider living, my leg just isn't one of them.

          I have to thank you for your post. It made me think.
          SHAKE IT!!!!


          • #6
            My mother said Grampa was a heathen. The way he believed was his "heathen ways" and that Gramma had tried and tried over the years to change them. I have one brother who thinks as I do and a brother and sister who do not. I don't love them any less. I like your Dad's take on this, Singing Otter - for I am very grateful to see life as I do.

            As to Manidoons - he earned his own name. I took a week's vacation after my first year at the job I have. One of the ladies at the office asked if I had been out sick or something because no one had "heard" me in the halls. Then she laughed (kind of embarassed) and admitted that they referred to my chair as "the bees" because that's what it sounded like when I was going down the hall.

            Manidoons means several things in the Nishnabek language - any general kind of insect (buzzing - bees, wasps, mosquitos, no-see-ems) or little spirits/sprites. It's also a play on words in the translation as in English you could refer to some sort of conveyance as a "Buggy".

            My wife named her power chair the first day she had it - her leg braces and crutches are still just things.

            Thank you for your interest, Singing Otter. It is nice to know that I am not alone in thinking these things. It is nice to have a place to be able to talk about these things too.



            • #7

              Originally posted by between2worlds
              Is no one taught about personal power? About the importance of controlling one' s power in the circle? About how the circle is a place of energy - which can hold both good and bad depending on who and what has been let into the circle?

              I have other questions that radiate out from these basic ones, but these are the questions that are at the center.
              B2W== Honors to you for putting your thoughts and beliefs out here. Not an easy or safe thing to do on this site @ times. I believe many members here were taught the same or simular ideas about the arbor. The Modernization of our customs across the board have dulled many Ceremonies, rites and Ideaologies(sp?). The native aspect of personal power can be a difficult idea to pass down to generations that are getting hammered in the schools the scentific method. Moreover society in general protrays this type thinking as devient or unstable. Those that do seem open to the idea take it way to far i.e new agers with there energy fields etc.

              It usually takes a hard lesson to bring us back to understanding of the things we were taught. Sometimes people never put it together,(the things they do in the circle effect their lives accordingly).
              B2W believe you are not alone in your thinking. For proof, just look @ how many sucessful drums there are today. I have to believe they are protected by people with very simular ideas.Well all know the dangers involve with improper use of things, medicines, etc.
              As I had mentioned before. I believe most have had these lessons passed on. At times we lose touch or completely abandon the belief altogether.

              "Now remember, things look bad and it looks like you're not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. 'Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That's just the way it is." JW


              • #8

                I have a comment that may or may not help to shed light on some of the questions and differences that we see on the boards.

                Pow-wows come in 2 forms - traditional and competition.

                Although my knowledge of the latter is slim to none I am of the opinion that many times this is a forum to win, show off, get recognition for the moves and looks.

                I am of the belief that a traditional pow-wow is more spiritual and is a celebration of life and an opportunity to ask for healing and to pray through music and dance.

                "Rules" or expectations of dancers/singers differ at each - with the traditional being the more disciplined of the two.

                I also have stricter teachings than some (like B2W) and I have struggled many times with knowing what to say or do in a situation but I do know where my place is and where I have the duty to teach. When I am a visitor, I usually will just acknowledge my question to my husband and then move on - it's the place of traditioanl people/elders in the host community to say something. When I am at our home grounds, I will say something that teaches the way we do things there.

                I'll still cringe when I see adults carrying children while dancing in the circle and when I see young women at pow-wows dressed as though they were going clubbing or to the beach - but I'll have enough respect for the place I am visiting and will remember my manners and behave appropriately.


                • #9
                  Honors to you B2W for starting this thread. I too have similiar thoughts as you do. I didn't have alot of elders around when I was growing up but did learn some of the basics. I don't "teach" anyone but my own children because I am not an elder and don't think it my place. I recently got my "wheels" and was wondering about going into to circle with them also. Presently I can still make it with my cane for short distances but know that won't last forever either. I have also had family members look at me like I'm crazy because I have "the sight" my Grandma had it and my daughter has noticed that she might also have it. I usually keep it to myself as not to make people uncomfortable. Thankfully my husband understands it and thinks it's "cool"

                  Thank you all for your thoughts



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