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  • Playing catch up

    Hi all,
    I joined the military in 2000 and pretty much stopped dancing as the military had me moving around too much. So, I'm trying to get some more background on chicken dancing. I used to dance old style (long johns, leg bells from hip to ankle, crow bustle, quillwork, you get the idea) and one weekend back in San Antonio in 2005 I decided to go to a pow wow. I dressed out in my old style outfit, had a great time, then this lady walks up to me and says "nice chicken dance costume". I said "It's an old style outfit", and I think she though I meant 'old style' as in the chicken dance is old, because she said "yea, you're a chicken dancer." This was news to me, because the only chicken dance I'd ever heard of til then was from Germany.

    Then it happened to me again in California in 2007. I was in the same outfit, having a good time, had a friend there who hadn't danced in 5-6 years, and the MC gets on the mic saying "ladies and gentlemen our humble gathering is honored this weekend by a sacred chicken dancer." Now I'm sacred?!?! Can we say 'awkward'. Needless to say I felt a bit embarrassed by it since, as I said I've only known my style to be old style, and decided to leave. I don't know how to chicken dance, still to this day have never seen a chicken dance, and didn't want to be asked to do one.

    So I danced all throughout the 1990's, I sang on 2 different drums (Southern & Northern), I've read books on the history of the people, history of pow wow, history of pow wow music, I have an extensive collection of music ranging as far back as the 50's, been to the Library of Congress for research, and yet I haven't seen anything prior to 2000 that mentions this dance (no songs in my music, no references in my books, never heard stories of it in the 90's), SOOO, what is the history of chicken dance, where did it come from and why is it that only this decade has it spread so rapidly? I know not everything gets written and not every song recorded, but not even a mention of it while other society dances of the 20th century were is just strange.

    I'm just trying to play catch up on my knowledge of what dances there are. As I said, I basically missed pow wow'ing for the 9 years due to military service.
    You can't be a figment of my imagination, I do better work than that.

  • #2
    First, what tribe are you? You must not be from one that had chicken dance traditions.

    Second, my tape collection goes back farther!

    Comment


    • #3
      Yeah, you musta missed all wicked 70's recordings with some nice chicken dance songs on it. You don't have to research to hard to find something on chicken dancing. Granted, if you research is limited to boy scout books... (which your referring to your outfit as your "old style outfit" seems to lean towards) then that may be why.

      At what powwow were you called a sacred chicken dancer? Just curious on that one.

      Comment


      • #4


        I'm ready!


        Why must I feel like that..why must I chase the cat?


        "When I was young man I did some dumb things and the elders would talk to me. Sometimes I listened. Time went by and as I looked around...I was the elder".

        Mr. Rossie Freeman

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        • #5
          and one time, when I was at band camp, I saw this girl ...............

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Iowa_Boy View Post
            First, what tribe are you? You must not be from one that had chicken dance traditions.

            Second, my tape collection goes back farther!
            Lakota, raised in virginia. Good for you on the older than 50's recordings. Reel to reel or wax rolls? Cassette tapes and 8 track came out in the 60's, anything on them from earlier was typically transferred from wax roll or reel to reel.


            Originally posted by misterE View Post
            Yeah, you musta missed all wicked 70's recordings with some nice chicken dance songs on it. You don't have to research to hard to find something on chicken dancing. Granted, if you research is limited to boy scout books... (which your referring to your outfit as your "old style outfit" seems to lean towards) then that may be why.

            At what powwow were you called a sacred chicken dancer? Just curious on that one.
            My post wasn't about recordings, but since you've got some reference material I can look into can you point out some titles to the recordings?

            My research was focused on Lakota/Dakota history, but not every book is written specifically for one nationality so my research lead me to read about many. People don't go to the Library of Congress to read boy scout books. My outfit is old style based off pictures of what my grandfather wore on the reservation as well as what was left of it.

            Back to the question, what is the origin/history of the chicken dance?
            You can't be a figment of my imagination, I do better work than that.

            Comment


            • #7
              I own wax cylinders from the early 1900s, been to every sound archive in America/Canada, I helped the Library of Congress with their collections in the 1990s. No one on this board has a more extensive collection of pre-1950s materials of the northern plains (notice I said northern plains) than me. YEAH BABY!

              The first bit of advice I'd give you is take the time to go through the archives of this site, many questions have already been answered there.

              Comment


              • #8
                Without making friends with Iowa Boy and visiting his archives (hmmm note to self.. make friends with Iowa Boy and visit his archives), you can easily order over the internet various '70s recordings (Blackfeet in specific) from Canyon records and Indian House Records that have chicken dance songs on them. Blackfoot A1 Club, Old Agency Singers, Pat Kennedys "Blackfeet powwow songs" are a few tapes to check out, on the Cree side you can pick up Treaty 6 Ermine Skin Bands tape.

                You may want to focus your further research with the Blackfeet (though I've heard Cree, and Dakota people mentioning chicken dancing being part of their culture as well).

                Glad to see you are not getting your oldstlye longjohns in a twist, and are keeping a cool head.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by misterE View Post
                  Without making friends with Iowa Boy and visiting his archives (hmmm note to self.. make friends with Iowa Boy and visit his archives),
                  I once asked Iowaboy to let me listen to his really old stuff. He made me wrap tie 10 spikes for his new bustle. Then he made me listen to his " Most Prized" recording.....
                  ... Karma Kameleon by Boy George.....

                  I nearly past the __-_ out!

                  You've been warned
                  "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

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Iowa_Boy View Post
                    I own wax cylinders from the early 1900s, been to every sound archive in America/Canada, I helped the Library of Congress with their collections in the 1990s. No one on this board has a more extensive collection of pre-1950s materials of the northern plains (notice I said northern plains) than me. YEAH BABY!

                    The first bit of advice I'd give you is take the time to go through the archives of this site, many questions have already been answered there.
                    Thank you Iowa_Boy, per your suggestion I just spent some time digging in the archives and found some good background info on chicken dancing. Does the Library of Congress have copies of your cylinders from your work with them? I'd be very interested in hearing them. Are they strictly music or do they contain interviews as well?

                    Originally posted by misterE View Post
                    Without making friends with Iowa Boy and visiting his archives (hmmm note to self.. make friends with Iowa Boy and visit his archives), you can easily order over the internet various '70s recordings (Blackfeet in specific) from Canyon records and Indian House Records that have chicken dance songs on them. Blackfoot A1 Club, Old Agency Singers, Pat Kennedys "Blackfeet powwow songs" are a few tapes to check out, on the Cree side you can pick up Treaty 6 Ermine Skin Bands tape.

                    You may want to focus your further research with the Blackfeet (though I've heard Cree, and Dakota people mentioning chicken dancing being part of their culture as well).

                    Glad to see you are not getting your oldstlye longjohns in a twist, and are keeping a cool head.
                    Thank you for the recording suggestions! After looking into the archives and also seeing the music you pointed out, I gather the chicken dance has roots in both Blackfeet and Cree culture. I also found that the dance was societal, but now is danced fairly widely. I got confused though on whether the dance is open to all or supposed to be done only by those allowed to do so. I've seen the same argument brought up about other societal dances over the years and it made me wonder, is it not better to have more dancers to carry on the tradition than to let it possibly die out by only letting in a select few? I couldn't find anything in the archives noting it as a religious dance, was it at all? And lastly, are there any notable differences in the way the dance is done with regard to its origin from the Blackfeet versus its origin from the Cree?

                    No need for me to get my longjohns in a bunch or loose my cool, I'd never get any help that way! I appreciate you both for responding back, thanks guys!
                    You can't be a figment of my imagination, I do better work than that.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by lostsalt View Post
                      I once asked Iowaboy to let me listen to his really old stuff. He made me wrap tie 10 spikes for his new bustle. Then he made me listen to his " Most Prized" recording.....
                      ... Karma Kameleon by Boy George.....

                      I nearly past the __-_ out!

                      You've been warned
                      Yeah, but that music got you that hook-up with that goat that one night (wait, wrong thread).

                      IB's on the road right now, won't be back on powwows.com for a week or so, you know, doing stuff, going to powwows. I'll send you pics Lostsalt.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        you know if u really want some info there is a forum that tells about what this dance means to us as the blackfoot people, i'm not sure if the plains cree have a story(not saying they "don't"), i just havent had the chance to hear it yet. the white clay (gros veture) also have a story that ties in with ours. as well as the crow. u can learn about the dance, and than u can learn about the style of dress and the songs and certain ceremonies that u will not see at powwows as well....i think but yeah look for that forum, it kinda goes off track for a bit but you'll catch text in there about it
                        TAKING AWESOME 2 A WHOLE NEW LEVEL

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