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  • Arm Band Ribbons

    Hey hey hey everyone! Just wondering... why do straight dancers wear ribbons on your armbands? Is there a historical reason for this or is it just the way it is?

  • #2
    To Tie

    Good Question.

    I have been dancing for what seems like a lifetime and actually it has been a lifetime. I will not speak for others as I know there are many reasons for everything in their outfit including the ribbons used for their armbands. This can vary from Tribe to Tribe and Dancer to Dancer. Hopefully many more will come on and let you know why they use ribbon.

    But some are very simple like my reasons - the ribbon is used to tie the armbands on it is left long for decoration. Simple but very effective.

    For we must remember that while the history of the use of armbands goes beyond White Contact, it is also not a Native thing as armbands have been worn in Cultures all over the World since the dawn of time. But the use of Ribbon (particuallry silk ribbon) is a product of Post White Contact as the ribbon could only come from White Trade. Today Dancers use all kinds of ribbon but mostly cotton, rayon, polyester, and blends, etc. If one does use all silk then that is very, very impressive!

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    • #3
      My Rust 2 Centz

      Well I'm Told Originally The Arm Band Drops Were Originally Otter Strips. Holding Homage To The Otter, Due To The Connection The Otter Had With Wakonda And The Water Beings And Land. Hence The Otter Is A Land And Water Animal. So, I Figured The Otter Kinda Got Hard To Purchase And Someone Jus Started Using Ribbon Strips. There Are Some Straight Dancers Out There Who Still Use The Otter Strips On The Arm Bands.
      >>>~~~~*~~~~<<< THUNDERHILL >>>~~~~*~~~~<<<

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      • #4
        Originally posted by ern_dawg2003 View Post
        Well I'm Told Originally The Arm Band Drops Were Originally Otter Strips. Holding Homage To The Otter, Due To The Connection The Otter Had With Wakonda And The Water Beings And Land. Hence The Otter Is A Land And Water Animal. So, I Figured The Otter Kinda Got Hard To Purchase And Someone Jus Started Using Ribbon Strips. There Are Some Straight Dancers Out There Who Still Use The Otter Strips On The Arm Bands.

        ern,

        I'm goin' with your explanation.
        Powwows will continue to evolve in many directions. It is inevitable.

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        • #5
          Some Ribbon History

          Good Point Ern. Very nice.

          We know from traveling journals that the Natives traded for the White Man's cloth materials from a very early time (shortly after contact). This included using pelts to trade for wool, cotton, silk and more including Ribbons. By the 17th Century, Ribbons were a part of high fashion in both Europe and the New Americas. So much so that Ribbons of all kinds became a part of the Fur Trade. It was so lucritive along with wool and cotton that centers of Ribbon Manufacture sprung up in Conventy, England and Lyons, France (much like the centers of wool blanket making for the Hudson's Bay Company by the Whitney Mills). A gift of Ribbon was highly valued and even sought after by many Natives. Of course this was when animals were in great numbers.

          By the way not all Ribbon was really Ribbon - some was really Military Braid used for binding and decorating Military Uniforms.

          But that changed:

          We know that both the Otter (especially the Sea Otter) was highly prized because of its dense fur (one of the highest of hairs per square inch) along with the Beaver and was traded extensively so much to the point that they were almost depleted as early as 1825 and practically gone by 1840; the offical last date of the Rendevous. After that trading pelts for Ribbon would have been much harder and the Natives would have had to rely on other ways to procure certain trade items. Seeing the extreme value of the Otter at this time to the Natives it might not be wise to trade it for Ribbon. Plus the fact that Otter still seemed to be plentiful for both Otter Turbans and Otter Breastplates well after 1840 it would seem that it was also still used for Armbands.

          Of course by the late 19th Century the industrial revolution changed the expense of practically any milling and ribbon became more useful among the people for many things.

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          • #6
            I'm getting educated with the responses on this one. I can only comment that in the early 1960's, lots of the ribbons were about 1' long when mounted. Later, they became 1½ feet long. Now, we may have multiple strands, sometimes longer than 1½ feet and perhaps more than one color.

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            • #7
              Good comments everyone! Thank you! I was wondering if anyone else had heard the following about what has evolved into the ribbons:
              1) They hang there as protection
              or
              2) They were once much longer, tied through the arm bands and used to connect a warrior to a captive's bound hands for transporting (left his hands free just in case).

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              • #8
                hmmm

                the otter was used on the arms as it was used on the garters. the garters and arm bands were made the same way. those are more badges that got lost to antiquity. well i still wear the otter garters. ive made some arm bands, but for some reason dont wear them as much, lol. yet, i think the ribbon is just easier to use than otter. the otter way involved more decoration. so the ribbon is basically ornamentation that has a traditional background that was lost. Shude victors is one of the few if the only dancer out there that wears the otter way.

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