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  • Traditional Owl Feathers

    A friend of mine asked me to help him update his traditional dance rig.

    I asked him to show me what he had.

    He showed me some old bells worn on the side, Hudson Bay blanket leggins, a few other odds and ends and an old bunch bustle made from both hawk and owl feathers.

    I asked where he got this bustle and he said it was given to him from a traditional elder from Montana. I know this elder and he is very respected. It had been in this elders family for generations.

    In doing some research on this bustle, I found that there were similar bustles used commonly throughout the northern plains in the 1800's. These bunch hawk/owl bustles were used by many tribes.

    Some were worn as bottom bustles. Others were worn as secondary neck bustles.

    This not only brings to light that owl feathers are part of the evolution of today's modern bustles but that at one point in history, dancers wore double bustles - one set on the lower back and another set on the upper back.

    I have heard emcees around Indian country refer to the men's traditional dance as the "single bustle dance." I wonder how many people know that these double bustles with owl feathers were once common?


    Your thoughts?
    Last edited by WhoMe; 08-23-2007, 02:32 PM.
    Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

  • #2
    I have seen old pictures of "traditional" dancers with the smaller neck bustles that you mention. I can't recall what they were constructed of, but I have seen old bustles with various feathers, including hawk, owl, eagle, and pheasant.

    Haven't thought about these bustles in a long time.

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    • #3
      Old Time Bustles

      This style of bustle has also beem popular beyond the 1880's. The classic "Old Time Sioux" period was from 1910 to 1935. During this time both round back and neck busltles were popularized and worn. Even though one doesn't see these as much any more, I have been wearing this style of bustles since the early 1970's. I usually get some interesting comments at dances. And I have seen a few more appear in recent years. Other component feathers in addition to the ones already mentioned are guinnea hen, rooster hackles and tails and grouse. Mirrors are common in the center with ribbons hanging below them. The lower back bustle usually has two trade cloth trailers suspended below the main circle of feathers. These are decorated with secondary wing feathers, quilled wheels, etc. The edges can be lined with brass sequins; and the bottoms can be decorated with metallic fringe.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by somerled View Post
        This style of bustle has also beem popular beyond the 1880's. . . .The lower back bustle usually has two trade cloth trailers suspended below the main circle of feathers. These are decorated with secondary wing feathers, quilled wheels, etc....

        somer,

        The bustle you described is definitely classic "Old Tyme Sioux Style."

        There is a dancer in Oklahoma named Pat Moore who also has this small bustle on his upper back. His father also wore one before him.

        The 1800's bustles that I have seen all have leather trailers but include the secondary feathers you described. These bustles originally belonged to several tribes who now reside on the northern plains and southern prairies of Canada.

        My friend's bustle has leather trailers with earth paint designs on the inside. They are extremely unique, antiquated and meant to be used with the lower primary bustle.

        I made him a new contemporary eagle bustle and put the older bustle on the inside. It looks .... great!

        He's kinda worried because on one hand, his tribe believes the owl is a bad omen. One the other hand, he is wearing the "real thing" and doesn't want to offend the elder who gifted him a family heirloom.


        Whatcha think? Any advice?


        I've heard many people make a case of "ask before you take a picture of a dancer because they may be wearing something that has been passed down or meaningful to them personally."

        This is one of those cases.
        Last edited by WhoMe; 08-23-2007, 10:24 PM.
        Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

        Comment


        • #5
          how well does the owl feather aspect fit in with contemporary powwow 'norms'? ive been to several powwows, mostly midwest ones, where people over reacted at just one owl feather. alot of people seem to feel the owl feathers are the leppers of feathers to work with.i know a couple people with fantasic owl wing fans but the dont bring them out because of all the gruff they get.

          The older I get the less of a deterrent life without parole gets

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          • #6
            Originally posted by FluteMaker View Post
            how well does the owl feather aspect fit in with contemporary powwow 'norms'?

            It all depends on proximity and how you define contemporary. It also depends on how you define "traditional."

            Does this make sense?

            Powwow is as culturally traditional as some people get.

            However, other people believe powwows are not true tradition.


            I have often wondered:

            If a man gets into a car, fills it up with self serve gas, drives over 100 miles, checks into a hotel with his credit card, drives to the powwow, pulls out his suitcase, changes cloths, puts on his gym shorts and tube socks, puts on his new neon Indian shirt, paints his face like a WWF wrestler and competes in the men's traditional category, wins, gets back into his street cloths, then heads to the casino ....... is this traditional? *L
            Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

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            • #7
              Whome....

              Do you by chance have pic of this bustle before you made changes? just curious to see what it looked like....
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              • #8
                Originally posted by ndnsooner View Post
                Whome....

                Do you by chance have pic of this bustle before you made changes? just curious to see what it looked like....
                Thats what I was going to ask.
                The only time its too late to start dancing is when you're dead.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by WhoMe View Post
                  It all depends on proximity and how you define contemporary. It also depends on how you define "traditional."

                  Does this make sense?

                  Powwow is as culturally traditional as some people get.

                  However, other people believe powwows are not true tradition.


                  I have often wondered:

                  If a man gets into a car, fills it up with self serve gas, drives over 100 miles, checks into a hotel with his credit card, drives to the powwow, pulls out his suitcase, changes cloths, puts on his gym shorts and tube socks, puts on his new neon Indian shirt, paints his face like a WWF wrestler and competes in the men's traditional category, wins, gets back into his street cloths, then heads to the casino ....... is this traditional? *L
                  im just talking conventional gatherings...probably the homgonized versions where one tradition fits all kind things rule

                  The older I get the less of a deterrent life without parole gets

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                  • #10
                    On the subject of owls, I was raised in a culture that did not look upon them negatively. In fact, when I was younger, my grandmother, who was raised up on the Warmsprings reservation had and used an Owl tail feather fan that had been passed down in her family. I was lucky to find a man who just by chance loves and appreciates owls also.

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                    • #11
                      WhoMe that is interesting history about the double bustle!!

                      I thought a lot of the old time Sioux "messy/nest" bustles had a variety of feathers, and depending on the maker these could include all/or any of the following: hawk, eagle, owl, crow/raven feathers.

                      My question is...if these were traditional Sioux bustles. but yet the Sioux feel strongly negative about the owl feathers now...what happened to the tradition or caused things to change???
                      The things you are doing today are the traditions of twenty-five years from now.
                      -Daryl Baldwin: Miami


                      https://www.facebook.com/SpottedeagleFans

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                      • #12
                        Good question - I know they'll let you wear down at Mankato in MN... and I know a couple of guys; the owl is the only kind of bustle they ever had.

                        Clarification: the guys I'm talking about are both Lakota


                        I'm making a set for a friend right now - I'll post a pic when I'm done.

                        Originally posted by spottedeagle View Post

                        My question is...if these were traditional Sioux bustles. but yet the Sioux feel strongly negative about the owl feathers now...what happened to the tradition or caused things to change???
                        Last edited by sookout sh'nob; 08-26-2007, 02:02 PM.
                        Mii iw keyaa ezhi-ditibiseyaan

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                        • #13
                          ndnsoon and super,

                          Sorry I don't have any pictures to share. I looked at it closely recently and found that it included eagle, owl, hawk and speckled loon feathers. They are all died red.

                          He danced this weekend with many people of his tribe in attendance. Not a single person said anything!

                          I told him if anyone ever questioned or challenged him for wearing them in a "contemporary" powwow arena, for him to tell them "I am wearing the 'real thing' that was given to me from an elder who lives his culture."

                          What more can he say?
                          Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Up around here, you can get harrassed for using owl feathers, even by the 'traditional' elders.

                            For most of us Ojibway, we are told not to use them becuase they bring bad luck..bad messages.... blah blah

                            i just think so much of the old teachings were lost, and in an attempt to restore as much of the old knowledge as possible, I think a lot of people started borrowing things from other nations. I researched into this matter a lot, becuase I do use owl feathers, I have a nice old style hack bustle. Sometimes I choose where I use it, becuase some places here in Minnesota, people frown on owls, but i don't think they really know the old ways.

                            When you go to the museum, or look at old photographs from the late 1800's even to the 1920's, you can see bustles made from great horned owls or great greys.. and so on, ojibway dancers at that. I had an elder tell me that us Ojibway did use owl feathers all of the time, that all owls were not bad luck, or evil messengers. It was the small screech owls, that we are suppose to fear, especialy thier screech calls they make, those are the bad signs, and large owls were just messengers and didn't nessicerly bring bad medicine. I was even told that warriors would wear owl feathers, when they would travel at night, to help give them nightsight and slince, like the owls.

                            So somewhere I think someone was taught about the screech owls, and somehow it got mixed into a fear of all owls, and now people go around saying what is traditional, and what isnt.... and so on. I mean, I've had other traditional dancers come to me and tell me not to use them, becuase it wasn't 'traditional' and my response ussualy is that most of what we do at powwows isn't traditional to our specific tribes anyways, so they didnt have any right to tell me what is and isnt proper in the circle. I mean we (us ojibway anyways) didn't even use large eagle bustles, we used oldstyle small bustles made out of all random feathers, and our outfits 100 years ago, sure as hell dont look the same today. Everything over time gets mixed and blended in the powwow scene. So whenever someone gives me hell over owl feathers, I ussualy just start ranting about how thier outfits arn't really "traditional" either.

                            I mean most powwows are considered intertribal, and when you have powwows, your going to get dancers who come from a variety of tribes, that have different teachings and ways, and no one has the right to tell you that you cant do this, you cant do that, or in my case, you cant use owl feathers. i mean, when im at small powwows, and if someone really starts a scene, sometimes I wont use my owl feathers, but thats ussually just small backwoods powwows, where people think they know all of the old ways. I mean for those people who claim to know the old ways, go look through the photographs from powwows 100 years ago, and then try to explain to me that us Ojibway didn't use owl feathers.
                            www.myspace.com/anishtradish

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                            • #15
                              Agreed

                              Awewome post there Anishtradish!

                              I don't know how many times on this site people have argued about the Owl and its use without doing a bit of serious research and found out that their people really did use the Owl and that it really is not that bad as claimed.

                              You are so right in the fact that so much bad information and miss information has permeated our culture. For one that is over 60 this mutation of stuff has really hit the fan in the last 20 years - and it is terrible. There is so much crap that it makes one wonder what the heck are we doing to our culture????

                              I have said this over and over and over and I will say it here yet again:

                              Native America is extremely VAST. What is the practice of one cultural area may not be that of another AND what is medicine for one may not be medicine for another and VICE VERSA!!!!

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