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  • Let's talk tail dance sticks

    Tail dance sticks weren't originally for everyone. In days past, they were carried by men designated as "tail dancers and former tail dancers." It was a part of their designated position within their tribal "Man Dance Ceremonials."

    Today, it seems most straight dancer's own one of these sticks regardless if they have held the 'tail dance' title or not.

    Some sticks are fully beaded with no attachments.

    Some have fur, beads and elaborate carvings.

    Some are thin, others could be a weapon *L

    Some have feathers, plumes, fringe or hair attached at the top, middle or tip.

    Some dancers hold a tail dance stick and fan in the same hand!

    Is there any significance to the decorations on a tail dance stick?

    Is it personal preference of where attachments are tied (ie. top, middle or tip)?

    What do you think when a dancer has eagle feathers on the tip and they touch the ground when they dance?
    Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

  • #2
    Originally posted by WhoMe
    Tail dance sticks weren't originally for everyone. In days past, they were carried by men designated as "tail dancers and former tail dancers." It was a part of their designated position within their tribal "Man Dance Ceremonials."

    Today, it seems most straight dancer's own one of these sticks regardless if they have held the 'tail dance' title or not.

    Some sticks are fully beaded with no attachments.

    Some have fur, beads and elaborate carvings.

    Some are thin, others could be a weapon *L

    Some have feathers, plumes, fringe or hair attached at the top, middle or tip.

    Some dancers hold a tail dance stick and fan in the same hand!

    Is there any significance to the decorations on a tail dance stick?

    Is it personal preference of where attachments are tied (ie. top, middle or tip)?

    What do you think when a dancer has eagle feathers on the tip and they touch the ground when they dance?

    I think this tail stick topic has been touched on in this forum, especially the historical aspect.

    I believe that in the last couple of decades, many powwow contestants carry sticks as "eyewash", something to catch the judges' eye. I think they are not concerned as to whether they, the dancers, have ever tailed formally or not. Some of them may not know the significance of the tail dance stick, especially here in the Southwestern U.S. (west of Oklahoma).

    In recent years also, at the so-called 'tail dances', the tail dancers are picked at random to dance a few tails. Perhaps someone who has done this, however briefly, considers himself worthy of carrying the stick.

    Something else that has happened is the picking of a substitute tail dancer to replace someone who might be ill or absent from the formal Man Dance for some reason. This has happened in recent years at the Ponca hethushka. I don't think this is traditional, although I stand to be corrected on this. A person so chosen, even though tail dancing at only one dance, might think he ought to always carry a tail stick.

    About decorations, I only know what I have seen. In the 60's and 70's, I used to see that a number of the sticks had otter fur strips circling around, glued and/or stitched. The number was usually two and they were centered on the length of the beadwork with a gap in between the two.

    Of course, many sticks were and are gourd stitched. I never saw one with a simple bead-string wrap to make a design.

    I've seen sticks that are a combination of gourd stitching and carving, and I think they are good looking. I saw one stick from Southwestern Oklahoma that was of cedar, carefully cut so that ½ the length was red wood and ½ the length was white. On that one, the gourd stitching was minimal, probably to show off the color of the wood. I have a stick with stylized American flag designs at the end, because it was made by a friend right after the twin towers attack, 9-11. I personally don't like to see feathers and ornaments dangling off the end of a tail dance stick, but my statement is not going to change anyone's mind.

    I believe I have already commented on this forum about Bill Wahnee's teachings. He felt that the stick should not touch "Mother Earth". I personally feel that it shouldn't contact the ground when you're seated, either; it shouldn't be used as a "leaning cane". He further said that you should not dance a circle around it, because "that is turning your back to the enemy". I follow these teachings.

    Holding the stick and fan in one hand gives a different flavor and balance to the dance. I also feel that a handful of dancers do it just to take a break, so to speak, from holding them separately.

    Some dancers carry a small beaded and fringed bag along with the fan and stick, and again, I think it is for powwow contest "eyewash".

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Gledanh Zhinga
      I think this tail stick topic has been touched on in this forum, especially the historical aspect.
      .

      Gledanh,

      You are correct.

      We have talked about this before. There is not too much that hasn't already been addressed about straight dancing in the straight dance forum.

      However, you have contributed some clarity to the questions I have presented. One point that needs more clarification is if a dancer has served as tail dancer only once, does he have the right to carry a tail dance stick? What if where he was a tail dancer was not a "formal" tribal war dance?

      I do believe there are many straight dancers who carry the tail dance stick who do not have any knowledge of it's history. This includes not just dancers west of Oklahoma (ie. the Southwest).

      Do you, or anybody else, know the protocol of why feathers, plumes, fringe and scalps are attached to a tail dance stick?

      Do these attachments have significance if they are attached to the top, middle or tip?
      Last edited by WhoMe; 12-19-2005, 01:15 PM.
      Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by WhoMe
        Gledanh,

        You are correct.

        We have talked about this before. There is not too much that hasn't already been addressed about straight dancing in the straight dance forum.

        However, you have contributed some clarity to the questions I have presented. One point that needs more clarification is if a dancer has served as tail dancer only once, does he have the right to carry a tail dance stick? What if where he was a tail dancer was not a "formal" tribal war dance?

        I do believe there are many straight dancers who carry the tail dance stick who do not have any knowledge of it's history. This includes not just dancers west of Oklahoma (ie. the Southwest).

        Do you, or anybody else, know the protocol of why feathers, plumes, fringe and scalps are attached to a tail dance stick?

        Do these attachments have significance if they are attached to the top, middle or tip?

        I don't know of the significance or protocol involved with the tail stick attachments. At one time, dreams seemed to be considered more important than they are now. If a guy dreams of some decoration and has it interpreted it properly, he might attach something to his tail stick.

        As for what has happened in the world of straight dance, it is probably too late to turn back the clock regarding all the illicit tail stick carriers. The sticks are going to be carried, no matter what, especially in the powwow world. The only way to stop it in the Man Dance Circle would be to have the leader/drumkeeper/sponsor announce an edict, allowing only tail dancers to carry the stick. I don't see that as something that might occur.

        I personally have tailed briefly on at least five separate occasions when asked by the headmen of the dances. I do carry a tail dance stick, but I never feel quite worthy, if I compare myself to a Man Dance tail dancer who has "tenure" and who was chosen by the committee and leader.

        Comment


        • #5
          I have been checkin' out straight dancers to see if what I was seeing was valid.

          It is.

          During straight dance contests, dancers eagle feathers and plumes that hang on the tip of tail dance sticks DO touch the ground.

          People say, "eagle feathers are not supposed to touch the ground."

          But if you look closely, and I hope you do, you will see it is common?
          Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

          Comment


          • #6
            I have seen the feathers touch the ground during the dance and this is one reason I don't attach them to my dance stick. There are other reasons.

            I too have been honored to stand in as a Tail dancer at a few Tail dances. I was most honored by an Omaha Elder to tail a dance for him. This is one that I remember the most.

            I was taught that we are not to use a dance stick unless one is given to us first.
            BOB

            Comment


            • #7
              The topic of Tail Dancers and Tail Sticks have been discussed on previous threads (listed below). However, I can offer the following additional information, based on what I have been taught.

              For most Veteran Organizations, appointed Tail Dancers or former appointed Tail Dancers, are the only Straight Dancers who should be carrying a Tail Stick during the formal dance ceremonies of their organization.

              This being said, we should keep in mind that different Veteran Organizations, (i.e. Ponca Hethuska, Pawnee Iruska, Osage Inlonschka, etc.) may have different definitions as to what an "appointed" Tail Dancer would be. Some may have a well defined period of time for their service to the organization in the capacity of a Tail Dancer, others may recognize that even serving as a Tail Dancer one time, (perhaps to fill in for a "regular" Tail Dancer who may be absent on the day of the dance ceremony), constitutes having the "right" to carry a Tail Stick from that point on.

              When these men, who have or are serving as Tail Dancers for their organizations, entered the Pow-Wow circut many years ago, they would usually carry their Tail Stick, as is their right to do so. However, other Straight Dancers, who are not connected with formal Veteran Organizations, have for many years now, imitated the practice of carrying a Tail Stick, so much so, that it has become a "common practice," and has been accepted as a "standard hand item" in some areas.

              In some Veteran Organizations, Tail Dancers are appointed from among those men who have served in combat. Because of this, some Tail Dancers have been given the "right" to attached "war honors" to their Tail Stick, such as a decorated eagle feather.

              In other Veteran Organizations, a Tail Dancer may be given the "right" to attach "medicine items" related to combat, to their Tail Sticks.

              Lastly, since some Veteran Organizations present a Tail Dancer with their Tail Stick, either made by a member of their family or made by another Tail Dancer, there may be certain "decorations" or "attachments" added to the Tail Stick that are unique in some way, and only have meaning for the presentor and recipient.

              In all cases, I have been taught that if there are attachments to the Tail Stick, they should never touch the ground.

              For more information, try the following threads:

              Tail Dancers


              Ponca Hethuska Society


              Tail Dance "kick"


              Ring Around The Tail Stick


              Tail Sticks


              Tail stick and tail fan


              Whoz supposed to carry the staff?


              tail dances
              Last edited by Historian; 12-22-2005, 03:32 PM.

              "Be good, be kind, help each other."
              "Respect the ground, respect the drum, respect each other."

              --Abe Conklin, Ponca/Osage (1926-1995)

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