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Iroquoian Singing and Dancing

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  • Iroquoian Singing and Dancing

    Good Afternoon everyone, I've browsed this board may times but I haven't seen much info on my cultural dances. So to get the ball rolling what do the rest of you think about smoke dances as competition at many powwows up hear in the NY/NJ area?

    I'm also interested in learning what everyone else feels about the stomp dance. Traditionally it was a religious dance but has now become a more social dance. I know the Cree and many other tribes use the stomp dance, so what's your take on it?

    Hope to see a lot of you at a powwow this summer. Later

  • #2
    Good tpoic. Im Mvskoke Creek/Seminole and Stomp Dance is a very big part of who we are. It goes WAYYY back and is something that we have always done. I dont know or have ever heard of the Smoke Dance so I cant comment on that.
    As far as Stomp Dance, we have social stomp dances and the "religous" stomps that are held for healing and occasions like Bvsk(Green Corn Ceremony) which we just had Bvsk a few weeks ago.
    I have seen people do exhibition stomp dances for educating people but it is nowhere near the real thing. Also,there are benefit stomp dances. People come and participate and donations are collected for school supplies for the kids, or food and house repairs for our elders who need it etc. These are run like a "traditional" stomp dance but it is more the informal, social stomp dance then anything.
    The "religous" Stomp Dances that are held are invitation only. These dances are communtiy only dances unless you are brought in by someone within that community.
    This year someone mentioned something to me about competition stomp dancing, I think that is ridiculous.
    Anyways, I will go to a Stomp Dance before I go to a powwow any day! Especially if you have a REALLY good caller. To those of you who have never been , you cant help but to start moving when those locha (turtle)shakers start going and the rattles start kicking in with the stomp songs being called and answered by the men in a perfect, balanced harmony; with the voices permeating every shadow of the arbor as you dance in the firelight. Words cannot express what it is like, but it is awesome!!

    So what is the Smoke Dance?
    A Warrior without character is nothing more than a brute.

    I have lots of freinds, you just cant see them:)


    • #3
      This past weekend I saw the Allegheny River Indian Dancers perform Smoke and other Iroquois dances at the Indian Art Market at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis, IN. The group was excellent. They had several great singers. Bill Crause, the leader of this group, said they have over 35 dances they can do. I highly recommend them if you get a chance. The group is made up of mostly Seneca people from around Buffalo, NY.

      I've seen smoke dance competitions at the Oneida Pow-wow in WI. (I'm heading up there tomorrow to see it again!) I don't see it as a problem that it is done as a contest. From what I've been taught about smoke dances they are a social dance. I don't have a problem with contest dancing in general.


      • #4
        Yeah, I think smoke dances would be a great addition to the powwow scene. Contest too. I never could get that timing right. Lots of fun!!


        • #5
          I go to school in Ny and when I am up there I go to the Pow wows and really enjoy the Iroquois Social dances. I love watching the smoke dances, i wish i knew how to dance that way... And Bill Crouse is an excellent singer. He was the MC at our pow wow this past year (at Cornell University)and he was great!!! Well thats my thoughts on it....

          "I had promised to never dance in the white way if I didn't dance the Indian way first..."


          • #6
            All right you guys, got a question about the head pieces (for lack of better term). How are those headpieces made? I've seen some old b/w pictures (looks about the 1940's) labeled "Seneca social dance" - what is the significance of the single feather sticking straight up?

            What is the origin of the smoke dance? I know the story behind it about making a draft so the smoke can leave the long house. Second what is the stick dance? If I remember correctly I believe the Dance Theater did a special on PBS several years ago with this as one of the dances they did.

            Any info would be helpful.


            • #7
              I saw the Stick Dance done at Oneida, WI on Saturday night. The MC said it was a social dance and invited everyone to join in. The songs are similar to other Iroquois songs in that there is a "call & response" part and then the song. The dance was led by one of the Iroquois dancers and everyone else "followed the leader". I don't have any information about the history of it.


              • #8
                I've seen two examples of stomp dance. Once, a group brought a demonstration up from OK; the second time, there was a competition at a powwow in OK.

                We watched 'til it wrapped up about 4 a.m. Correction: Couldn't stop watching it!

                With respect,

                People keep telling me to act my age. How old am I, again?
                "As long as dancing is cultivated, civilization progresses; but no sooner is the interdict set forth against it, than the people who were once refined by its inspiration, relapse into barbarism."
                - Thomas Hilgrove, 1856


                • #9
                  From the little that I know about Iroquois and social dancing, I know the "head pieces" are called, and I know that im not spelling this right, but it sounds like Ga-stow-ah....i think. PLease dont hate me if im wrong. And as for the feathers, eack member of the Iroquois confederacy, Seneca, Onieda, Cayuga, Mohawk, Onondaga, and the Tuscarora, have a different arangement of feathers. One might have a feather sticking straight up or have one up and one back, or have three up, but im not sure which arrangement corresponds to which nation. Lets see what else do I know.... I think thats all. I hope that this is at all informative, just my little input.

                  "I had promised to never dance in the white way if I didn't dance the Indian way first..."


                  • #10
                    We are having the Bigmountain family (Iron Mountain Dancers) from the Six Nations reserve in Canada at our Pow Wow in November to demonstate Iroquois Dances. They seem like such good group of people. We are exited about learning about this!
                    We are also hosting the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Youth Dancers, to learn about their traditonal social dances. The caller is only nine years old.
                    I have seen the Choctaw, but not the Iron Mountain group. Has anyone seen them?
                    As an Intertribal Pow Wow we like to show some other styles of dancing each year other than Plains style dancing! Need to learn more about each other and we need to breakdown those sterotypes, ya know!
                    *All of our demonstration are scheduled in the "down" time!

                    [This message has been edited by terence, AISC Director (edited July 11, 2000).]


                    • #11
                      you will absolutely, not be in any way, dissapointed by The Big Mountain family. They are all incredibel and wonderful people. Little Big Mountainthe Father) is an aweseom person and wait until you here his presentation. you will aughing so hard you wont be able to breath. Defintley a good choice as far as a group of people to come to your powwow you will enjoy them very much
                      A Warrior without character is nothing more than a brute.

                      I have lots of freinds, you just cant see them:)


                      • #12
                        The Big Mountains- while I have never seen them do any shows or smoke dances, are a wonderful family. I am a well traveled dancer and the family is respected every where I go. Their children are excellent dancers and nice people as well. I am sure that the show will reflect the love and values that the Big Mountains posess.


                        • #13
                          Thank you guys so much! Now I am even more excited! It is very unusual for us to hire anyone w/ out checking them out, but they were recommended and all I had to do was talk to them by phone! We look for good hearted people, as that is what we want to put "out there" about our Pow Wow, so this is great to know they are as wonderful as they sound! Oh, dear! If the Dad is funny, I can't wait to see him with our M. C. Scott Richards is always saying something with a twinkle in his eye.
                          Iron Mountain is helping us with our school Day program w/ over 2,000 children.
                          I am also looking forward to having our first female hoop dancer (Katrina Big Mountain)! Sounds like fun and a few worries off of me!


                          • #14
                            I don't know what the origins of the smoke dance are, but I will try to find out. The old folks I know from Seneca and Mohawk say that the name comes from all the dust that was raised from the pounding of the dancers feet during the dance. It would seem that if there was smoke in the longhouse they would open the dampers on the stoves rather than do a dance.

                            Stick dance, if it is the one I am thinking of is a very old hunting dance, predating the Handsome Lake religion. It is called 'Shaking the Bush' and is one of the neater dances to do. The pairs of dancers face eacher and perform a little hopping/kick step. Not so good dancers or their partners often get it in the shins when they start on the wrong foot.
                            ***Oops, This is a good example of why you should check your brain before you open your mouth. I really don;t know what I was thinking. Shaking the Bush is called KICK dance in english, sometimes...The "Stick dance is the same as Delaware Skin dance. The name comes from the old style delaware (Lenape) drum of folded rawhide. later on, after the Seneca adopted the dance into their song bag they used other kinds of noise makers instead of the folded drum. I have even seen Kellogs cereal boxes used. They are beaten into smithereens with sticks, sometimes the habdles of horn rattles. Sometimes no 'drum' is used at all. The singers beat the bench to maintain the rythm. After the introductory songs there are fast and slow songs song pretty much at random depending on where you are. Also denending on where you are this will be the last dance of a social evening.

                            In my experience, The basic difference between the secular and the sacred form of any of the dances depends on the use of the long chanted introductions to the dance tunes. These chants do not appear on any of the recordings with which I am familiar.

                            The hat is called 'gustowe'(real or original hat)by the Seneca, and the moving feathers on top do have national significance. The frame of the hats are traditionally made fron ash splints, folded and tied together and then covered, depending on the identity of the wearer, with cloth, either as a full cover or just along the ribs of the frame (mostly Mohawk)

                            [This message has been edited by raptor (edited July 17, 2000).]


                            • #15
                              Hey,the BigMountains are great people and fine entertainers. You got the right people to work the children. Little is a riot. We have alot of memories together but I don't think he'd want me to mention those!!!! That was before he met Katrina! I know all the Bigmountains. Worked with a couple of the brothers at thier show in Ca. Any one of them would be great to have, but LittleDeer's got all the charm and jokes too! When is that Powwow? I might have to drop by if I'm anywhere in the neighborhood.


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