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Calling A Tail

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  • Calling A Tail

    Hello to all the digital friends and relations out there! To start, I hope everyone has safe travels out and about these next few days. I also hope everyone has a warm place to be and good company to surround themselves with. Now as for a question or two or three....

    What do you know about calling for a tail? Who can do it/ has the right? Where is it appropriate? Why do some tribes have this tradition and others seem not to? Where did it come from? What (if anything) does it represent? Is it 'paid' for when it happens? What else is there to know about this that has not been asked?

    Just hoping to get some conversation started here. I figured maybe this will give people something to take home and talk about with their relatives and their elders.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Fat Albert View Post
    What do you know about calling for a tail? Who can do it/ has the right? Where is it appropriate? Why do some tribes have this tradition and others seem not to? Where did it come from? What (if anything) does it represent? Is it 'paid' for when it happens? What else is there to know about this that has not been asked?
    Answered in the order of appearence.

    1 Not much. 2 Probaly a tail dancer at his own grounds and the head tail (oxymoron?) dancer at that. 3 At "man dance" grounds who have the office of tail dancers. 4 Because they were given the tradition and have kept it. 5 The answer probably varies depending on who's answering and what tribe they are. 6 Dont know 7 Yes if it occurs in a place like the one described in answer 3.
    8 Probably a lot.

    I hope somewon answers who knows sumthing. Id like to learn something. Good Questions Big Boned Albert (I just cant call you fat).


    • #3
      Any other thoughts on this? I'm kinda surprised that some of our usual suspects have not chimed in yet! LOL!

      Maybe this can help the ball get rolling...
      So BigChief mentioned it depended on who you ask and so on but in general I have heard this: Poncas did not have this tradition in their version of the war dance. I was told that at some point when they gave it to the Kaw's (I think they said) they (the Poncas) added this tradition. That version went to the Osage when it was passed that way. I seem to remember also hearing that it was passed this way later to the southern Oklahoma groups such as Comanche and the Kiowa Apache (on the same trip down). Now, that may be a load of hooey but that is one of the things I heard from some old Poncas. Again it depends on who you talk to I am sure.

      As for the rest of the questions I am interested to see if there is more conversation on this...


      • #4
        Im no straight dancer;however, from what I've seen it's usually the head singer that decides to add a tail. The dancers just have to listen for it and be ready! The best tail dancers know the songs and when it ends.
        Last edited by amarie49; 01-06-2010, 10:20 AM.
        We will be known forever by the tracks we leave..Dakota leader.


        • #5
          so 2 cents here... jeez I keep this us and I am gonna be broke but anywho..

          Some songs just don't have tails (even at the society dances). Some folks only do the tail at the society dance, and do a tailless version for powwows.
          I can agree that betwixt the tribes having societies it seems there is a spectrum (tail on every or almost every song, down to almost never)

          Some drums always do a tail- can think of two northern drums up this way that always have a tail. But that's northerns.

          I've never heard of anyone calling for a tail, may just be a phrasing thing. You don't mean raising stick do ya?


          • #6
            Tail-Dancers are like Whistle-Carriers. They are responsible for keeping the dance lively. And they know when to hold their stick in the air, with a whoop to get the Head Singers attention while coming off their seat. At which time the drum will take that particular song up a few more times. This is the proper way.

            If a dancer other than a specified Tail-Dancer holds his stick up. It is expected that he make payment for his action. Even if a dancer accidently dances a tail, payment is expected. This keeps a clear road for the ceremony.

            Alot of people don't understand why or how and know other way except disrespect. I hope this helps to some extent.


            • #7
              Thanks for the replies! Amarie49 I think is pointing out how this works in the pow wow world. I was originally thinking about the formal dances (legalstraight is right... raising a stick) but that brings up another question. It is my experience that at pow wows sometimes there are tails and sometimes there are not. Typically you can expect one at the end of a good straight dance contest song but maybe not in the intertribals. That does seem to be up to the drum. Has anyone seen a person raise a stick and get a tail at a pow wow?

              Wa-zha-zhe, good way to put it! "Even if a dancer accidently dances a tail, payment is expected. This keeps a clear road for the ceremony."
              I hear a lot of folks say that for non tail dancers to dance on the tail at the ceremonies it is in order to give away. A few people have told me that you give away because you don't have the right to dance the tail if you are not a tail dancer. In other words, the first is 'you dance to give away' while the second is 'you give away because you danced'. Both look the same to a 3rd party but the intent behind it is very different. This made more sense to me once I thought about the give away songs at a ceremonial. I was told that on those songs, the drum does not give anyone time to go back to their seat so everyone ends up dancing the tail. In turn everyone should give away out of respect to the person the song is for (individual or committee songs) as well as out of respect for the tail dancers.

              I may be out in left field but this is what I have been taught. Anyone have the same or different teachings?
              Last edited by Fat Albert; 01-07-2010, 03:51 PM.


              • #8
                [QUOTE=Fat Albert;1356239] Has anyone seen a person raise a stick and get a tail at a pow wow?

                Ive never seen that. I have however seen everyone (after a contest song) dance the tail after getting their numbers taken. Which of course is another seperation of "church and state" so to say, but I sometimes wonder if it is done one way at a formal why it would be done another and perfectly accepted at a powwow. All I can chalk it up to is maybe an mutation to adapt to northern style contest songs with tails (kind of like some southern singers who if called to sing for a northern dance style will use northern downbeats). And I also have to think this started at the drum. But the only thing I know for sure is i dont know anything for sure lol.


                • #9
                  Wa zha zhe has spelled it out the Wa-zha-zhe way; it is done when the Spirit of the Dance is high. The old Ponca committee members informed Sylvester Warrior that raising the stick was not a Ponca way. This was when he was reorganizing the dance in the late 1950's. In more recent years, when Eli Warrior was head singer at the Ponca hethuskas, I have seen it done at Ponca. I think it was because Eli was used to it at other dances, and he simply reacted to the raised stick in a non cognitive manner. Ideally, we aren't supposed to see it at the Ponca home dances.


                  • #10
                    Many different situations and ideas.

                    At the Inlonshka our selected Tail Dancers will raise their dance stick at the tail for the rest of us to dance it out. The dances are Tailed so I think you're asking who can dance the tail in this case.

                    At an intertribal Powwow I've seen when an honored Tail dancer has raised his Dance Stick with a whoooooop and the Head singer knew what to do. I have also been to dances that had exhibitions and at the end of the Straights exhibition the Head Singer gave a tail. I have seen this after a contest for the Straights.

                    I think this would be similar to the Whistleman. The man who blows a Whistle should give an explanation of why he did and can blow the Whistle. If a Tail Dancer calls for the tail he should explain. I have never seen this yet but I would think it should be done so others would know.

                    This is a good (?). It would ultimately end up in the Head Singers lap.


                    • #11
                      Has anyone seen a person raise a stick and get a tail at a pow wow?

                      Yes I have ... in fact I was singing with the drum at the time. We were out on the east coast and it was during contest. Thing is the head singer of the drum ask a tail dancers that was there contest dancing to do it and they used it as a teach moment for folks that had no clue what was going on (not even the MC had a clue)

                      "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." Pablo Picasso

                      "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift...that is why is it called the Present." Master Oogway - KungFu Panda

                      My comments are based on what I have been taught and my experiences over the years I have been around the circle. They should in no way be taken as gospel truths and are merely my opinions or attempts at passing on what I have learned while still learning more.


                      • #12
                        First, I want to clarify the term "calling for a Tail".

                        Generally speaking, it is my understanding that during some society dances, if there is supposed to be a "tail" (i.e. the last verse of the song repeated one time) on a song, then the Head Singer will usually direct the drum to sing it. However, for some societies, the appointed Tail Dancers have the option of signaling the Head Singer to repeat the entire song, by raising their Tail Stick in the air. It s said that the choice to sing the song through again is ultimately up to the Head Singer.

                        As far as requesting a song to be sung through again in a Pow-wow setting, the variations are more wide spread.

                        "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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