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  • Indian Dancing

    I am new here, and new to pow wows. Went to my first pow wow in Columbia SC last month. Took a few boy scouts with me. I will be the new dance coach for the Order of the Arrow Indian Dancers in my district. I need some ideas as far as dancing, costumes, etc. Can anybody help me? Any books, videos, movies or other help will be appreciated.

  • #2

    I am not trying to be rude but since you openly admit that you know nothing about native culture, I think you and your group should take things very, very slowly. I would suggest you and your youth members attend a few dances and there are even a few seminars around that might help you all out. One is in Statesville, NC but it is over already. There is another smaller one that is held in Newport, TN on DEC 7.8. It is put on by the Pelissippi Lodge of the OA and would be a good place to start the learning process for both you and the kids.

    As for books or tapes....hhmmmm. The is a video called "Into the circle" and is put out by Fullcircle videos. Many larger libraries carry it (so you might have to go to Columbia or Charleston to get it) and it is a good overview of what happens at a powwow. There are no books I would recommend (especially Ben Hunt's books they are incredibly out of date)

    No offense intended and hope this helps

    "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.


    • #3
      Good pointe PWB49.......Antelope this indian way can not be learned over night. It takes years. Its hard to find good dances in your area but contact the webmaster here he is from SC. Attend a few dances and get a feel for pow-wows.

      Watch Into The Circle, but there is also a video out called With In the Circle, but out by Cool Runnings video. Its really good. Um also aome books out there is Pow-wow country by Chris Roberts, and he has another book out but I for get the name of it. You can find all thease titles at

      Well hope that helps out some.....TMS
      If I do not know the answer someone else will!!!!
      Also forgive me, this system does not have a spell check so forgive the bad spelling


      • #4
        My advice would be to skip the pow-wow and learn something about the history, culture and people of your local tribe or region first. Take them to a knowledgeable tribal person and ASK for help in teaching these kids about Indian PEOPLE and WAYS and CURRENT AFFAIRS.

        By going to a pow-wow or watching a pow-wow video, you are not teaching your youngsters anything useful except how to take something that doesn't belong to them and to look at Indian people in a one-dimensional way.

        Don't do it.
        Not better. Not worse. Just different.


        • #5
          Yeah, I'm with lngfthr. Y'all aren't ready to dance yet. Maybe you never will be. There's a lot more to Indians than powwows. Perhaps, more than a formal history lesson, your boys would just enjoy hanging out with some Native boys their own age. Get them together for a baseball game or a trip to a canival or something. Kids learn by watching adults, but they also learn a lot from other kids. At the age you're working with, I think it's more important that they get to know some Indian people and see them as real. See if a nearby tribe is running a summer camp or has a Boys and Girls Club, somewhere the kids can socialize and just be kids.
          I would advise against dancing.
          We are all half-crazy, and all at least half all right. -Josh Ritter


          • #6

            Lngfthr and Wren are right. It's not what you wanted to hear, but they are right on.

            Build a man a fire and you warm him for a night. Set a man on fire and you warm him for the rest of his life.


            • #7
              OK I guess I wasn't clear about my intentions. I am new to Indian dancing with the OA. I have some boys that have been doing this for a few years but I haven't. I wanted info so that I know that what they are doing is correct. They say they know what they are doing, but I don't. It's like saying something to someone in a foreign language. If I don't know what you said, you could tell me you said have a nice day when you really said you're an ugly dog. I wouldn't know until I said it to someone that knew the language and got my @ss kicked.I'm not trying to disrespect anyone, and I want to do this right so that I don't.


              • #8
                Are the boys in you group that have been dancing for a while Indians? And if so, are they willing to share with the others who are not familiar with the culture?
                If they are not Indian, I would suggest going back to ground zero with the whole group. Maybe what they know is correct, but the chance of it not being correct is greater if they have been taught what they know by a non-indian.
                And what the others have said is very true-Pow Wows are only a small part of our culture, and there are vast differences in tribal ways among many of us. Learning about the local tribes is a very good place to start learning about culture. Many tribes have someone who is their cultural educator, who will talk with your group about their tribe if you ask.


                • #9
                  Antelope, good luck with your project. You have a long road ahead of you. The best advise I can give is to be a good observer. When you go to dances, look and look and look some more. Look at the mainline stuff people are doing, and have your boys avoid things which are different. That does not mean to be a copy cat, but stay with mainline ideas. Nothing will get people PO'd at you faster, than showing up at a dance with a bunch of scouts that look like... Scouts! Go to powwows and then take the dance knowledge to the scouts. Don't take the "scout stuff" to the dance, it doesn't work like that. I know you may be proud of your scout uniform but leave it at home when you go do powwows!This is for every one out there too! Leave your scout uniform at home! This is not a Boy Scout event! Go to the dances and meet some people and ask questions. NDNs are regular people just like the folks said above. Some people are amazed to find them talking about the World Series or Superbowl, like they aren't allowed to talk about anything but NDN stuff. Go figure that one out. If you go to Dixie fellowship, about 1/3 of what you see is ok, the rest is stuff that is a little different that you don't want your boys doing. Old Style is OUT! Don't even bring it up as an option with your boys, just stay away from it. Natives don't dance that way and don't want to see you dance that way either, and no, it's not keeping the old ways alive. It is about like taking a 1965 Chevy to a Winston Cup race. It may have been a bad mamma jamma race car in 1965, but this is 2001, so dress like it and dance like it. One thing I found out, is that when you start learning, its like learning baackwards. Every time you learn something, you find out there are ten more things that you don't know. So, when you learn one of those ten things, there are ten more things to learn, but you haven't had a chance to go back and learn the other nine from the first thing you did. You just have to hang in there and learn all you can. Last but not least, grow some thick skin, as you are going to feel rejected a bunch. Just hang in there. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Be sure to catch the seminar in January that Esua Huppiday puts on, do not miss it. You will learn more there in one weekend than you will any where else in four times that amount of time. I know all this got long winded and negative, and I am in no way trying to beat you down, but you really have a long roe to hoe. Hang in there and it can be great in the end. If you have any specific questions, you can pm me and I'll help all I can....


                  • #10
                    Just curious, how long have these boys been dancing? And like someone else asked are any of these boys Native?

                    I won't beat around the bush....but I do not like how the BSA and OA exploit the Native Culture. I'm not saying this to start another argument...I'm stating my opinion! :D

                    What I would do is...start from the beginning...check with a local with the elderly....learn from, learn the history. Do not rush and come out looking like a typical Ben Hunt Boy Scout Type.

                    As for coming out...what exactly is the groups ultimate goal. To educate the non-native public of Native Americans?

                    I do not agree with that..Why not support a local tribe...such as their senior citizen groups or maybe they have a local branch of something like Habitat for Humanity that builds houses for the local people or why not raise money to buy books about Native written by Natives for their local library or even their school districts libraries....I think there are other ways that Boy Scouts can learn about and help Native people other than dancing.

                    Just my opinion.....not meant at all to start a ruckus!!! :) :D


                    • #11
                      "Antelope", there was nothing unclear about your post. It doesn't matter when, it doesn't matter who did it before, it doesn't matter what you don't know. What does matter is this: Are you willing to continue with the type of behavior that most - if not all - Indians find offensive?? Or will you stand up and make a difference by teaching these young and impressionable youth about something that will make a difference in tomorrow's world?? Again, I encourage you to resist the urge to concentrate on the "tip" of the "cultural iceberg" and go deeper for better understanding (and I'm not talking about ceremonies either).

                      There will be many people who will tell you that the cat is already out of the bag OR just go ahead and do it OR some Indian somewhere said they weren't offended so it's okay OR we're very respectful OR pow-wows are a start to learning OR some other such nonsense. These people (and you, if you do it) are no better than the people from days long past who advocated the taking of Indian land because - what the heck! - the cat is already out of the bag and they aren't using it anyway and some Indians signed the treaties so it must be okay and we need....
                      Not better. Not worse. Just different.


                      • #12

                        PM me. We'll chat.

                        Build a man a fire and you warm him for a night. Set a man on fire and you warm him for the rest of his life.


                        • #13
                          lngfthr - I agree. I'd like to add that people like to say they are giving us honor by doing these things. I don't see the difference between what they're doing and the Indian mascot issue. The worst I've heard about is the "Chief Illini" guy from Illinois.


                          • #14
                            This kind of reminds me of a quote I incorporated into a speech that I wrote which advocated removing Indian mascots. An Oneida lady said:

                            "When someone says you are hurting them by your action, if you persist, then the harm becomes intentional."

                            I really liked this quote, and while the lady (a Barbara E. Muson) was referring to Indian mascots, I feel it to be a very applicable quote. A lot of times in life, people use ignorance or a lack of malice as justification for their actions. That really isn't right; like Ms. Muson said, if someone says stop and you don't, well then. You are intentionally harming the person.

                            As for Antelope: my little brother is in Cub Scouts. This year as part of their Indian Month activites (in November, how apropos) my mom and I went into the monthly pack meeting and talked about the traditions of our ancestors, the Nanticoke and Lenape. We showed them some things my family had made, and then I fancy danced for one song for them. Then, we told them about the Sneak Up dance, and they got to try it. Let me tell you, 8-10 year old boys really love pretending to hunt! The boys seemed to really like it, and afterwards all of the mothers were coming up and talking to us and thanking us. Perhaps, you could ask someone from the local Indian community to come to a meeting and talk about their traditions and way of life, past and present. It seems that, just based on the reactions of people here, a lot of people are strongly against Boy Scout dancing. The Scouts up here don't do this, so I haven't seen this and really can't have an opinion.

                            Just my thoughts,


                            • #15
                              Erica's right. There are good ways to become involved and learn. A vid just ain't gonna cut it. I've been to a couple of pow wows where the local scouts are actually involved in the thing. Working for the committee, directing traffic, picking up trash, all kinds of stuff. Good luck.
                              Build a man a fire and you warm him for a night. Set a man on fire and you warm him for the rest of his life.


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