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  • A history of the Gourd Dance.

    My cousin Dennis wrote a very good article on the Kiowa Gourd Dance that I'd like to share here. It was printed as an article in the Indian Country Today publication.

    Kiowa Began Gourd Dance
    by Dennis W. Zotigh

    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.


    [Article published courtesy of the Indian Country Today]

    (My grandmother, were she alive today, would point out that the Red Wolf was not wearing a ball cap. hehe)

    P.S.
    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.
    To this day...when I dance for the daytime I drape the red part of my trade blanket, in the evening session I switch to the blue.
    Last edited by Zotigh; 06-02-2004, 02:36 AM.
    Scott Zotigh
    Kiowa Black Leggings
    Kiowa Gourd Clan
    Kiowa Tiah Piah
    Kiowa Marine Veterans
    American Indian Veterans


  • #2
    A handkerchief bundle of Indian perfume, gathered from the foothills, is tied to the back of the bandolier.
    btw...for those that don't know...this is an accessory added by the 'sweethearts' or wives of the dancers to show that they are attached. Those dancers without the perfume bundles are considered 'fair game' for snagging. :D
    Scott Zotigh
    Kiowa Black Leggings
    Kiowa Gourd Clan
    Kiowa Tiah Piah
    Kiowa Marine Veterans
    American Indian Veterans

    Comment


    • #3
      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.
      Another P.S.:

      In the 1850's the Kiowa captured a Mexican convoy of mules carrying a large supply of silver coins. Not knowing the value of the coinage, the Kiowas fashioned the malleable metal into cones, beads and other articles of jewelry. Thus, the silver strand of the gourd dance bandolier represents that war trophy.
      Last edited by Zotigh; 05-30-2004, 12:28 AM.
      Scott Zotigh
      Kiowa Black Leggings
      Kiowa Gourd Clan
      Kiowa Tiah Piah
      Kiowa Marine Veterans
      American Indian Veterans

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Zotigh
        (My grandmother, were she alive today, would point out that the Red Wolf was not wearing a ball cap. hehe)
        Kio-Manche
        Oklahoma Proud!!!

        Comment


        • #5
          Zotigh,
          I agree with you on wearing ball caps while Gourd Dancing. I was taught to dress my best, and to look my best. To show respect for tradition, for my family, and for my tribe. And for me, I show respect for my Creator. I realize we are all taught differently, but I find it refreshing and pleasant, to hear someone speak up about this issue. Thank you very much.
          Kio-Manche
          Oklahoma Proud!!!

          Comment


          • #6
            I agree with you on the ball caps,but should include cowboy hats as well.It is my understanding that the otter turbin is the only permissable headwear,although I have seen many old photos of dancers wearing roaches.I see this alot in the south as well
            Rides-the-Wind

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            • #7
              Since we are on this subject, (ok, after this, i'll quit beotchin) I saw some guy wearing a Ping golfing hat, you know those ones made out of straw. Shoot, I thought it was Lee Trevino dancing out there!....LOL... But then....this is just my opinions.
              Kio-Manche
              Oklahoma Proud!!!

              Comment


              • #8
                In time the Kiowa were forced to give up their Northern Plains homeland by a larger Lakota and Cheyenne tribal alliance.
                The Sioux (Lakota/Dakota/etc) were at the time from the Great Lakes region. Having been pushed west by the Objiwe, who were in turn pushed into the Sioux by the European expansion, the Sioux pushed into the Kiowa who occupied the Black Hills. The Crow (our allies) being to the west of us, we could not move to the west, so we moved south into the Comanches, with whom we fought for many years until forging a strong alliance with them that stands to this day.

                Despite having moved south, the Kiowa still hold strong ties to our old allies, the Crow. To the modern day, both tribes still travel in early winter to eachother to play hand game and perpetuate our ancient alliance.
                Last edited by Zotigh; 06-04-2004, 12:21 AM.
                Scott Zotigh
                Kiowa Black Leggings
                Kiowa Gourd Clan
                Kiowa Tiah Piah
                Kiowa Marine Veterans
                American Indian Veterans

                Comment


                • #9
                  history -fyi

                  Some good info and some i read before in articles. Thanks, Dennis.

                  I also know that those few Kiowa men who knew the gourd dance songs were the old men from the Tanedooah family. The family I belong to - and even though some people looked down on them, they were very traditional people. They had family reunions every year and still do to this day where we take our offerings.

                  Those old men from the Tanedooah family also knew the Kiowa Black Leggings songs. You can ask Mr. Gus Palmer and he will tell you the same.

                  So when you read or hear that the Kiowa Gourd dance, Tiahpahgah, derived from other tribes just remember it was our Kiowa Tanedooah elders who retained those songs. I don't know what them elders would say if they knew our dance was practiced throughout the u.s. They might find some practices humorous.

                  You know those old men didn't wear ball caps or have "silver" salt shakers for gourds. They had the real thing and some even used parts of an animal for gourds.

                  btw: that red wolf may have appeared to be almost half human.
                  Last edited by redberi; 08-03-2004, 10:51 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    [ok! I'm new to this and hope I do it right....so please be patient with me. I'm here in N. California and Gourd is held at every Pow Wow. I have learned a great deal fro reading these threads and reach but have alot of questions. My biggest is: If the kiowa have only given this dance to a select few, how is it all these "new" societies keep appearing? I love to gourd and have beenh "open" gourd dancing for 3 years. I dress my best and am very respectful and serious about what I do. I intend to honor the Kiowa and follow thw style I've read about here. I talked to Principle Cheig "Chad" Smith of the Oklahoma Cherokee and was told that balthough Gourd isn't a Cherokee "thing" that he saw no problem with my dancing as long as it was done in a good way and with honor. So....any information as to whether this is exceptible or anything I need/can to to get accepted or given approval would be much appreciated. Thanks.........





                    QUOTE=Zotigh]My cousin Dennis wrote a very good article on the Kiowa Gourd Dance that I'd like to share here. It was printed as an article in the Indian Country Today publication.




                    (My grandmother, were she alive today, would point out that the Red Wolf was not wearing a ball cap. hehe)

                    P.S.

                    To this day...when I dance for the daytime I drape the red part of my trade blanket, in the evening session I switch to the blue.[/QUOTE]
                    Last edited by GrayDog; 09-14-2004, 06:40 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      [QUOTE=GrayDog][ok! If the kiowa have only given this dance to a select few, how is it all these "new" societies keep appearing? I intend to honor the Kiowa and follow thw style I've read about here. . . .So....any information as to whether this is exceptible or anything I need/can to to get accepted or given approval would be much appreciated. Thanks.........
                      ___

                      GrayDog,

                      Yes, the Kiowa do claim the Gourd Dance as part of their traditional clan structure and history. But other tribes also have ties to the Gourd Dance. This may offer some latitude as to why and how "all these 'new' societies keep appearing."

                      The Cherokee Nation (Western Cherokees) received their powwow and gourd dance information from a Kiowa named Kenneth Anquoe. Kenneth was a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan and started the Tulsa Indian Powwow Club. However, the Kiowa Gourd Clan did not specifically give Cherokees or the Cherokee Gourd Clan the "right" to dance the gourd dance.

                      So, yes the Cherokee were taught the gourd dance by a Kiowa and no, the Cherokee Gourd Clan was not officially given the rights to this dance by the Kiowa Gourd Clan.

                      ----

                      redberi:

                      I agree, the Tanedooah Family have a rich tradition in keeping the Gourd Dance alive today. The current Kiowa Tribal
                      Chairman (Billy Evan Horse) as you know, comes from this proud family.

                      Billy has travelled and made many family relationships with non-Indians in Florida. Again, as a recognized Kiowa leader and elder, he has this right. He is directly responsible for the gourd dance traditions that have spread to that state.
                      Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks for the info

                        Wado...Thank you for replying. I do love to Gourd Dance but would not wish to dishonor anyone by doing so. Is there anyone I can speak to/with to ask permission or at least a token "ok" to dance. Please keep sending me this wonderful info...it is appreciated and valued.....wado.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          [QUOTE=WhoMe]
                          Originally posted by GrayDog
                          [ok! If the kiowa have only given this dance to a select few, how is it all these "new" societies keep appearing? I intend to honor the Kiowa and follow thw style I've read about here. . . .So....any information as to whether this is exceptible or anything I need/can to to get accepted or given approval would be much appreciated. Thanks.........
                          ___

                          GrayDog,

                          Yes, the Kiowa do claim the Gourd Dance as part of their traditional clan structure and history. But other tribes also have ties to the Gourd Dance. This may offer some latitude as to why and how "all these 'new' societies keep appearing."

                          The Cherokee Nation (Western Cherokees) received their powwow and gourd dance information from a Kiowa named Kenneth Anquoe. Kenneth was a member of the Kiowa Gourd Clan and started the Tulsa Indian Powwow Club. However, the Kiowa Gourd Clan did not specifically give Cherokees or the Cherokee Gourd Clan the "right" to dance the gourd dance.

                          So, yes the Cherokee were taught the gourd dance by a Kiowa and no, the Cherokee Gourd Clan was not officially given the rights to this dance by the Kiowa Gourd Clan.

                          ----

                          redberi:

                          I agree, the Tanedooah Family have a rich tradition in keeping the Gourd Dance alive today. The current Kiowa Tribal
                          Chairman (Billy Evan Horse) as you know, comes from this proud family.

                          Billy has travelled and made many family relationships with non-Indians in Florida. Again, as a recognized Kiowa leader and elder, he has this right. He is directly responsible for the gourd dance traditions that have spread to that state.

                          WhoMe.....Thank you for your response (Wado). I appreciate all info I can get. How would a person go about getting in touch with someone who can give permission to dance gourd...not necessarly start a society, but give blessing to their effort of doing things in a good and honorable way? Thanks.......

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            That's the condundrum....

                            Being of whatever tribe you are, it seems odd to us Kiowa that you'd be seeking acceptance to dance our gourd dance.

                            If I were misfortunate to not have been raised Kiowa, and learned later in life that I was Kiowa, I'd be seeking the dances and customs of my tribe.

                            I'd not be seeking to dance Stomp Dance, for example. I'd be seeking Kiowa customs, being Kiowa.

                            I see many other tribes folks seeking to follow our customs, and it is flatering, in a way. But, it's also odd...from this perspective.

                            Can you see that?

                            I'm wondering if you should not be seeking guidance from your tribe regarding your tribe's customs. Rather than the customs of another tribe totally different in language, dance, and custom to your own.

                            It's an interesting phenomena, folks from other tribes seeking customs not from their own tribes, and asking for support in their venture of the tribes whose custom it is.

                            Odd, from this point view.
                            Scott Zotigh
                            Kiowa Black Leggings
                            Kiowa Gourd Clan
                            Kiowa Tiah Piah
                            Kiowa Marine Veterans
                            American Indian Veterans

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Scott

                              I can understand your point of view and I can definitely agree about learning ones own tribal ways. However, it doesn't seem that odd that others are coming to find out about the dance when you look at it in context with the rest of the powwow world. I would venture a guess that there are at least as many jingle dress dancers from tribes that are not nish than there are within that tribe (and the same goes for the other dance styles that have 'old' origins). Powwowing is a multitribal (if not cultural) event and somewhere along the lines gourd dancing became a part it, (though thank gawd it hasn't became a context form of dance). Many have come to find that they enjoy the dance and so...they go to where they have been told the source of the dance is to try and learn more about it. They will never have the same feelings about it that the originators of the dance will but they still try to understand it origins and the purpose it serves to those people.
                              PB49

                              "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." Pablo Picasso

                              "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift...that is why is it called the Present." Master Oogway - KungFu Panda


                              My comments are based on what I have been taught and my experiences over the years I have been around the circle. They should in no way be taken as gospel truths and are merely my opinions or attempts at passing on what I have learned while still learning more.

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