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Oral Histories of Grass

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  • Oral Histories of Grass

    So I thought'd be good moderatin' to start a collection of origin stories for theGrass Dance forum. To start it off right, I've collected a few off of our forums from one of our most exalted members, Steve StopsOnTime. Hoka!

    On the origins of grass dancing:
    The Grass Dance evolved from the early societies. These fellows were responsbile for cutting the lawns around the villages. They also were responsible for cutting the dance arena and could not do this until the day of the big dance. It generally took them until grand entry time to get the arena cut and they would be picking up their bags of grass clippings and dance them out of the arena. The people begining calling them grass dancers, obviously because they were dancing and carrying grass. Because they danced the grass out, they were giving the honor of leading the grand entry. That is how they invented the grand entry too. They had a hard time with the grand entry because they couldn't write and it was hard to keep points, well they didn't have paper either, so it was hard to keep track of points. Well they didn't have pencil's either, but thats a story for another time. I know this is true becuase I read it in a book a white guy wrote.

    On grass dance antennae:
    There was this old travlin' circus going through the middle of Nebraska about 1820 or so. The reason they were lost is they turned left instead of right at St. Louis.
    In this circus they had a monkey who would collect money while being chained to a music box. While they were camped near the O-Mah-ho Indians, the music box accidently got smashed by wagon wheel, thus freeing the monkey.
    The monkey grabbed two springs from the music box and headed toward Freedumb (that's near 'Liberty', MO). On his journey, some little O-Mah-Ho boyz saw the monkey and scared him. So he dropped the springs.
    The little boyz grabbed the springs and took them back to their camp and gave them to a grass dancer that happened to be standing there doin' nothin. He asked the boyz where they got the springs. The boyz told him, from a "Strange Animal" who had a face like a little boy and a tail like a cow.

    The grass dancer gave a loud war hoop and said .....

    "Oh you got them from a ........... COWBOY!~!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    On Grass dance society whistles:
    You know Old Style I was thinking about what whome said and I thought what the hell that white guy know. Since when can't a brother share some info with a brother....

    Well anyhoo, this is a long story, so I hope you got something to drink. This story occured when animals could talk. They can't talk anymore, but that's a story for another time.

    Wapecha was walking to the doin's and on the he walks by a pond where a goose happens to be swimming. The goose introduces himself and asks Wapecha where he is going. Wapecha tells him he is going to the doin's and Brucee goosee decides to go along, since he has never been to a Pow Wow. Wapecha and Brucee walk to the pow wow and as they go Brucee asks questions about the pow wow. Well they get there and Wapecha and Brucee dance the first set and Brucee wants to know why the singers are imitating a rooster, so Wapecha tells him the story. Brucee was jealousy of the rooster and was hating on him because the singers were imitiating the rooster. Well the set finishs and the story teller comes out and does there thing. The next set starts and Brucee and Wapecha are dancing again and Brucee can't believe the singers were imitating something as lowly as a rooster and not something as magnificent as goose, because you know them goose's are vain animals. Well Brucee is hating on the rooster and scheming as to what he can do. Well the last song before the dog and pony show comes out, Wapecha and Brucee the goose are dancing by the drum and just as they are finishing the song on the last beat, Brucee runs over and stretches his big old long neck out, over the drum, and picks up the lead. Well the singers never had a goose lead before, but they pick it up and don't miss a beat. Well Brucee Goosee don't know what to do, so he starts busting out all his old school goose moves. (Yes, this is why the dancer that blows the whistle dances hard.) Well the people never seen this before but it looks WAKAN, so they get up and start dancing. (Yes, this is why everyone gets up and dances when a whistle blows.) Well the push up started coming to an end and Brucee is beside himself because the drum is singing and everyone is dancing because of him. Them Gander's are VAIN. So just as the push up is ending, he runs up and stretches his long old neck and picks the lead up and again and singers just follow him. Well Brucee goes out on the floor and gets after it. He invented the "Goose Neck," during the second push up and you still see grass dancers do it to this day. Well as the second push up comes to an end Brucee the goose, runs up and sticks his long old neck out over the drum and picks the lead up again and the singers just pick it up. Brucee goes out into the arena and gets after it again. He is getting carried away and busting moves all over. Brucee invented the "goose step," during this push up. As the third push up comes to an end Brucee runs up to the drum, sticks his long old neck out and picks the lead up again and the singers follow. Now I forgot to mention that by this time the Veteran's were out in the arena and had formed a big circle around Brucee and one guy was counting the times Brucee is picking up the leads, just like they do today. Do you know why they held up their fingers to signify the number of times Brucee had picked up the lead?? Brucee was a goose and he got no fingers?? Com'on pay attention. Ok, back to the story, So Brucee the goose has just picked up the lead for the fourth time and he is totally out of control, he heads back out to the arena and does a double back flip and goes into a barrel roll, way up into the sky. Well Brucee miscalculates how far away he is from the drum and the push up is coming to an end so he comes diving in towards the drum. Well he is gliding in for a landing, you ever see a goose glide in for a landing?? Well the kind of hold their wings out and still and come in towards the ground. To this day those team dancing grass dancers from Rosebud do this move in honor of Brucee, ennit Mike. So Brucee is coming in fast, trying to get to the drum before the songs ends. Brucee comes in to fast, misses the landing and hits head first into the ground breaking his neck, just as the song ends. Brucee goosee is dead as a door nail on the ground, the song is done and everyone is just kinda of standing around trying to figure out what happened. As luck would have it Shady the Shaman was in the crowd. The People called him Shady because he always camped in the shade, I bet you thought something else, ennit. Well anyway, Shady tells the people he has to have a ceremony and he will come back and tell the people what he found out.

    Shady comes back to the People with 4 whistles fashioned in the shape of a goose head with the mouth open. This was in honor of what they had witnessed Brucee Goosee do that day. (Yes there are only 4 true whistles.) Shady also told the people that Brucee brought something else to the cirlce that day. He brought Jealousy, Hating and Vanity to the circle and it remains to this day.

    So the next time you be hating on someone, or thinking you look good or jealousy of that in shape dancer, you can thank Brucee Goosee for that. And the next time you hear a whistle, you can bet it isn't one of the 4 orginal whistles unless it is a seriously old dude blowing it.

    Aho, Steve has spoken.
    Last edited by sookout sh'nob; 03-16-2008, 10:45 PM.
    Mii iw keyaa ezhi-ditibiseyaan

  • #2
    LMAO THose stories always crack me up. I remember the one about the porky roach too
    The things you are doing today are the traditions of twenty-five years from now.
    -Daryl Baldwin: Miami


    • #3
      That SteveStopsOnTime never misses a beat!

      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


      • #4
        Oh heck, I forgot about these origin stories. I think there are these kinds of origin stories in every Powwow Dancing Forum.

        I contributed the "Cowboy Story" that is posted.

        I miss tradin' origin stories with Steve.

        Anybody know what happened to 'im?
        Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.


        • #5
          Originally posted by WhoMe View Post
          Oh heck, I forgot about these origin stories. I think there are these kinds of origin stories in every Powwow Dancing Forum.
          Aye, but few are as good as Steve! Here's a story I always really liked. I have no idea how "authentic" this legend is, but I dig on it's message about perception and beauty. Check it - Feed back appreciated!

          The Crippled Boy
          So, there was this boy whose legs didn't work the way other people's did. He wasn't quite crippled, but he couldn't run or jump well. Most of the things that boys liked to do, this boy was left out off - tag, swimming, all kinds of things. I'd like to think that he did alright, but they say he was a lonely kid anyhow.

          He prayed a lot. One of the things we are told he prayed for was to be able to do something with the other boys, something physical. Something active. Something playful. Eventually, this guy had a dream. In his dream, he was shown doing a certain kind of dance. It was a little different than the dances that were currently being done, so he payed attention to it. When he woke, he told his dad about what he had dreamt.

          His dad was either really good at being a dad or just curious, either way, he asked his boy to show him how the dance went. His son showed him the dance and right away his dad grabbed a drum and made a song to go with it. Maybe his dad had been thinking about this song for a long time and didn't know what it was for, maybe he was divinely inspired to make it up on the spot. Maybe it was a kind of song that already existed, we don't know - but it went with the dance perfectly.

          As a result of all this, his dad collected up all his possessions and he and his boy presented the dance to the people. Everyone came out to see the boy present his dance, and they celebrated and feasted and had a good time. The boy and his dad were so moved, that they also gave the dance to the people.

          So that's how the grass dance started in one place, and that's why it looks broken legged and dancers dance with their arms up like they are balancing themselves to keep from falling.

          And a similar synopsis from the Denver March site:
          Men's Grass Dance: Every tribe has their own origin legends of the different dance styles. The most well known origin legend of the Grass Dance comes from the Northern Plains Area. A young man was born without the full use of his legs. He longs to run, dance, and play with the other children. His parents consulted a Medicine Man and asked if he could help him in some way. The Medicine Man advised him to fast and seek a vision on the prairie. The young man left the village and did as he was instructed. As he sat in the hot summer sun on the prairie fasting and praying, the long swaying prairie grass mesmerized him. Soon he saw himself dancing in a similar manner. He went back to the village and the medicine Man interpreted his vision. The boy asked his mother to help him make an outfit to dance utilizing the long prairie grass. He showed his father how he would dance and a song was made for him. A celebration was held and he showed the village his style of dance, which was eventually called the grass dance. The old style grass dancers use a lot of shoulder, arm, and head movements and in the "old style" footwork it appears that they are stumbling. The grass dance style is easy to recognize by the striking outfits, which are covered from shoulder to ankle with long, thick, bright, multi-colored fringes made of yarn or ribbon. The dancers do not wear feather bustles like the traditional and fancy dancers

          And one more which is a riff on a longer history I've actually heard, but don't know well enough to relate to you folks:
          The grass dance made its way south from Canada (to Wyoming SS:we'll just let this part slide today) where it originated as a way to stamp down the tall prairie grass for dancing or erecting camp. The song is accompanied by a story about a lame Cree Indian who longed to dance. According to the story, he limped up a small hill to pray for guidance. As he looked out across the prairie, he saw the grass swaying and swooping in the wind, and it came to him that this could be his dance. Today men wear strings of ribbons and yarn hanging from their arms and waist to represent grass, and the dance has a rhythmic flow to it that echoes the look of grass waving in the wind.
          Last edited by sookout sh'nob; 03-24-2008, 11:09 PM.
          Mii iw keyaa ezhi-ditibiseyaan


          • #6
            Originally posted by sookout sh'nob View Post
            Aye, but few are as good as Steve!

            Sooo true, because Steve wrote them! The origin stories that I am referring to are in the archives.

            I think the majority of his origin stories are in the Men's fancy and traditional forums!
            Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.


            • #7
              steve is da man


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