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Shoulder Ornaments

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  • Shoulder Ornaments

    Most straight dancers wear some type of ornament attached to the bandoliers above each shoulder blade. There are a variety of combinations of what is commonly worn as dictated by personal preference, such as:

    1. Two solid color silk scarves matching the color of the neckerchief, are folded into a square and ironed flat. A corner is then pinned to each bandolier above the shoulder blade and left plain.

    2. With the above mentioned silk scarves folded and pinned, small beaded rosettes about one inch across, are tied to the bandoliers above the corner of the scarf which conveniently conceals the safety pins.

    3. With the above mentioned silk scarves folded and pinned and beaded rosettes tied in place, an additional pair of shoulder feather ornaments can be added.

    The shoulder feather ornaments are made like a loose feather fan in a much smaller size and frequently with a small gourd-stitched beaded base or a silver thimble, with small bird tail feathers hanging down from it. Traditionally in the past, tail feathers of kestrel (a.k.a. sparrow hawk), blue jay, mocking bird or other small but aggressive or so-called “warrior bird” feathers have been worn by straight dancers.

    In addition, occasionally, the feathers of the yellow-shafted flicker (aka yellow hammer), piliated woodpecker and scissortail flycatcher have been worn by some southern plains tribes in the past. However, feathers from this group of birds are often worn for spiritual reasons as they have special significance to many Oklahoma tribes in relation to healing.

    It should be noted that the use of feathers from protected species is restricted by Federal Laws. Therefore, feathers from non-restricted birds, such as macaw, pheasant, and grouse are seen in use today.

    4. Sometimes a straight dancer will wear beaded rosettes and shoulder feathers without silk scarves.

    5. An older tradition among the Ponca and some other southern tribes, though still seen today, are shoulder ornaments made with solid colored silk scarves with sage, wild bergamot (a.k.a. beebalm) or some other "herbal perfume" placed in the center of the scarves. Then a thong is tied below the ball of “herbal perfume” letting the rest of the scarf hang loose. These packets are then tied to the bandoliers above each shoulder. Dr. Howard states,

    “Even at the present time, the used of Indian perfume has not completely disappeared. We have noted that small perfume packets are tied to the bandoliers that are part of the straight dance type of Hethuska costume”...“because of it’s connection with ‘love medicine,’ the use of perfume of the Indian type makes the user the butt of much joking.” (Howard, 1965, p. 70)

    Melvin R. Gilmore lists meadow rue, blood root, wild columbine, “love seed” (cogswellia daucifolia), and “fuzzy weed” (artemisia dracinculiodes) used as “love medicine” in early times.
    (Gilmore, 1919, pp. 80, 82-83, 107, 134)

    Ashworth, Kenneth Albert.
    1986. The Contemporary Oklahoma Pow-wow. Ph.D. dissertation. Department of Anthropology, University of Oklahoma.

    Barth, Georg J.
    1993. Native American Beadwork. R. Schneider Publishers, Stevens Point, WI.

    Callahan, Alice A.
    1990. The Osage Ceremonial Dance, I’n-Lon-Schka. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.

    Duncan, Jim.
    1997. Hethushka Zani: An Ethnohistory of the War Dance Complex. MA thesis. Department of Anthropology, Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, OK.

    Ellis, Clyde
    2003. A Dancing People: Powwow Culture on the Southern Plains. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, KS.

    Feder, Norman.
    1957-a. Costume of the Oklahoma Straight Dancer. The American Indian Hobbyist Newsletter, Vol. 4, No. 1.
    1957-b. Costume of the Oklahoma Straight Dancer. The American Indian Hobbyist Newsletter, Vol. 4, No. 2.

    Gilmore, Melvin R.
    1919. Uses of Plants by the Indians of the Missouri River Region. Bureau of American Ethnology, 33rd Annual Report 1911-12, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

    Heth, Charlotte, ed.
    1992. Native American Dance: Ceremonies and Social Traditions. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

    Howard, Dr. James H.
    1955. The Pan-Indian Culture in Oklahoma. The Scientific Monthly, Vol. 81, No. 5.
    1965. The Ponca Tribe. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 195, Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.
    1976. Ceremonial Dress of the Delaware Man. Special Issue, The Bulletin of the Archeological Society of New Jersey, No. 33, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ.
    1983. Pan-Indianism in Native American Music and Dance. Ethnomusicology, Vol. 28, No. 1.

    Howard, Dr. James H. and Gertrude P. Kurath.
    1959. Ponca Dances, Ceremonies and Music. Ethnomusicology, Vol. 7.

    Kavanagh, Thomas W.
    1992. Southern Plains Dance Tradition and Dynamics: Native American Dance Ceremonies and Social Traditions. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution with Starwood, Washington D.C.

    LaFave, Edward J.
    1998. Straight Dance Clothing: How to Dress a Straight Dancer. Whispering Wind: American Indian Past & Present Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 4, Folsom, LA.

    McGee, W. J.
    1898. Ponka Feather Symbolism. American Anthropologist, Vol. 11.

    Meadows, William.
    1999. Kiowa, Apache and Comanche Military Societies. University of Texas Press, Austin, TX.

    Murie, James R.
    1914. Pawnee Indian Societies. Anthropological Papers, American Museum of Natural History, Vol. 11, No. 7, New York, NY.

    Orchard, William C.
    1929. Bead and Beadwork of the American Indians. Contributions from the Museum of the American Indian, Vol. 11, Heye Foundation, New York, NY.

    Sebbelov, Gerda.
    1911. The Osage War Dance. The Museum Journal, Vol. 2, No. 3.

    Skinner, Alanson B.
    1915-a. Societies of the Iowa, Kansa and Ponca Indians. Anthropological Papers, American Museum of Natural History, Vol. 11, Part 9, New York, NY.
    1915-b. Kansa Organizations. Anthropological Papers, American Museum of Natural History, Vol. 11, New York, NY.
    1915-c. Ponca Societies and Dances. Anthropological Papers, American Museum of Natural History, Vol. 11, New York, NY.

    Smith, Jerry.
    1982. Straight Dance Clothes: Getting Them On. Moccasin Tracks Magazine, April Issue, LaPalma, CA.

    Stewart, Tyronne H.
    1968. Dressing a Straight Dancer. The Singing Wire Newsletter, February Issue.


    Does anyone have any photos to use as examples for any of the shoulder ornament combinations described above?

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

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

  • #2
    I was told to put a small ball of tobacco in my scarves like you described. Indian perfume or tsayyonga (bad attempt at spelling Kiowa) is popular with my folks since it grows by the house. When its in season we go down and pick a lot, I don't know if there is a real difference between the whiteish flowers and the purple flowers.

    As for the feathers on the bundles I was taught you don't use the feathers you don't need or have the understanding to use. Personally that's why I don't use them. I would say that lately a lot of the people that I know that choose to use flicker feathers use them because they are pretty but it may run deeper than that for all I know. I assume they know what they are doing. Maybe I assume too much?
    Last edited by Fat Albert; 03-24-2009, 03:26 AM. Reason: computer issues


    • #3
      Comanche man - 1898

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

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


      • #4

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

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


        • #5

          "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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