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The Right to Wear Items

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  • The Right to Wear Items

    Here is a post from the N. Traditional Headgear board:

    Somebody in this forum made a very good point in that all dance stuff is probably tied in some way to societies/clans. Because of this a dancer needs the "right" to wear or use it. I never really thought about this until I started coming to this forum because everyone I knew adhered to these traditions.

    In reading in here it seems that anyone can pretty much do anything they want because, I get the impression, people believe that socieities/clans and traditions no longer exist so the "rules" do not apply. Well I am here to tell you that Societies, Clans and traditions are still alive and followed.
    Just because you found an Indian who said it was OK or said "yeah you can do it," doesn't mean it is so. Have a goot' one


    Sahnish makes some great points. There are still many societies and clans with specific duties and responsibilities toward their people. Clearly we need to be sensative to this. Here's what I'm wondering and I'll use a N. Traditional item to make my point:

    Not every tribe that has dancers who dance the modern N. Traditional dance today had the society or clan that wore bustles. Does that mean only Omaha, Ponca, Lakota, and any other tribe that bought this dance off of those tribes back in the day should wear those bustles and dance this way?

    How far should this be taken? Clearly this and other dance styles along with the outfits have been adapted by people of many tribes and nations. Are there items in the modern outfits that could be considered "public domain" for the lack of a better word? Does everything have to be passed on through ceremonies and "rights"?

    I'm not sure I have a point here, but it is interesting to discuss. I also hope I am not opening up too much of a can of worms. For the sake of debate let's search for common ground if anyone wishes to walk further down this road.


  • #2
    I would have to say in today's modern pow wow world its safe to say that roaches and bustles are "open" to most dancers and not necessarily a "society thing" anymore. Now, I do think its important that other items such as whistles and whips keep their original purpose. My father is a whipman and my bro is a whistle carrier, and both of those positions come with a huge amount of responsibility. I've seen Boy Scouts in the east carrying whips. I didn't get on them or try to shame them, I just told them they should research what they wear and everything should have some meaning that they carry. There are right ways to handle things and there are wrong ways; let's try to stick to the right ways on this board. Hope that helps, Scott


    • #3
      Ok, here's another question:

      It was posted in the N. Tradish. Headgear board that all dance stuff is tied to societies or clans in some way. Does that include fans? I think it's safe to say that a fan is pretty standard in a N. Tradishional dance outfit. Is there any history behind this? Were fans ever a society/clan symbol? Those of us who dance in hot summer weather know the practicality of a fan, but is there more to it than that?

      Just a thought.


      • #4
        I'd love to hear about some items that people feel belong to specific societies or clans if that information can be shared publicly.



        • #5
          Hello all.
          Great topic! I was taught that things have to be earned in the proper ways. I was not allowed to dance with any Eagle feathers untill I was allowed and proved to the elders in my comunity that I was responsable anuff to carry these items. The Pow wow dancers are like a society in a way.. We Pay our way into it with our giveaway and our Relatives and Elders and fellow dancers Recognize and suport us. we work together. There are still clans and clan dances,and societies! There are Clan rules and Society Taboos and responsablities that go with them. I know folks like to dance and have a good time, but what does the feathers and all the gear mean if it wasnt earned the old way? I had to earn it..thats why my regalia and my Powwow Family is so special to me. I guess a person could say that the Roach and Dance stick are Pow wow public domain, but the Eagle fan and eagle bustle should be "danced" before its officialy put on your back. When we start out as Tradional dancers we are told that we have to earn the right and repsonsablity to wear these items bcuz they have the ability to heal us and others when they are danced. If any Trad. dancer is cought misstreating his gear or not caring for it, the elder "strip" him infront of everyone! This is done so that everyone knows he has been careless with his gift. The tribes up here take this dancing seriously as they do they Tradional winter and Canoe society dances.
          Things are different all over I guess, but these Indians up here have adopted this style of dance and regalia from there buddies in the War and family from east of the mountains. They were given the dances and bustles and things that go with it and have introduced there old style of disaplane to go with it. Up here folks believe that the dances heal the old folks who cant dance anymore. anyhow.. its hard to express my feelings on this,but I tried! Societies and clans are still Verry stong up here and along the coast. I have been adopted into them, so I know!

          take care


          • #6
            Not every tribe that has dancers who dance the modern N. Traditional dance today had the society or clan that wore bustles. Does that
            mean only Omaha, Ponca, Lakota, and any other tribe that bought this dance off of those tribes back in the day should wear those bustles and dance this way?

            I am not sure the above is talking about the northern tradish style bustle, but your premise is correct. Kahkakew somewhere in this forum tells how a person has the "right" to wear or use something. I am guessing that many Northern plains tribes have similiar beliefs becuase the Cree's and my tribes are very similiar. My family makes outfits and pow wow gear, but just because we can make it and think we might look cool in it does not mean that we would dance in it.

            My question would be where did northern style bustles come from? What tribe started them? Because I don't know.


            "There is nothing more dangerous than ignorance in action."


            • #7
              From what I've been taught and read, the Lakota purchased the "Omaha Waci" from the Omaha. Modern Northern Traditional dancing comes from this. When they purchased the dance, the Omaha gave them a bustle. It's my understanding that this happened in the 1850's or 1860's. From there, the Lakota made bustles for certain officers in the Omaha Dance Society. By the 1890's and early 1900's, the bustle became a common item for every man who danced this way.

              The bustle was originally more of a belt with feathers hanging down from the belt and two trailers. I do not know how it evolved, but you got the round shape of the bustle by the 1890's.

              I mentioned the Ponca because it is my understanding that they also bought this dance from the Omaha. Over time they developed it into something very different than the Lakota did. This is were your "Hethushkas", or war dance societies came from. (I was at a great one on Saturday!)


              • #8
                while I am not Lakota, you appear to be talking about how the Grass Dance came to the Lakota and that bustle looks nothing like the modern day northern tradish bustle, nor are the dance styles similiar.

                I am curious when and who brought out the current northern tradish bustle. Personally, I wonder if it isn't a spinoff of fancy dance bustles. Before tradish bustles got the extentions on the feathers, the bustle design looked a lot like a fancy dance bustle did.


                "There is nothing more dangerous than ignorance in action."


                • #9
                  I THINK the modern ("U" and "swing") traditional bustle as we know it came about in the 50s or 60s. Prior to that, bustles were the old "flat" style of the Cheyenne and the round "nest" bustle of the Omaha and Lakota.

                  Even the first fancy dancers had little round bustles that resembled the Omaha nest bustle, but they had bright colors. These round bustles were worn on the lower back, neck, arms, wrists, and sometimes knees. I saw some pictures of these old-time fancy dancers from Oklahoma and I am pleased that fancy dance has changed over the past 70 odd years!

                  Anyway, I also saw pics from the 60s and the fancy dancers and traditional dancers had bustles that had more of a "U" shape instead of round.

                  Maybe the fancy and traditional bustles changed at the same time, each influencing each other????

                  On the fan category- I was told that the fan is not just to keep you cool. I was told that the powwow circle is a "neutral zone" and hard feelings, bad attitude, etc. are not to come into the circle. This being said, the fan is used to pull good feelings toward the person.

                  There's some of my ramblings. Later.
                  Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.


                  • #10
                    there is a book called the 'Pictograghic history of the Oglala' (or something like that) that has a great many detailed pictograghs of different society regalias. Not all included a fan, or coup stick, or bustle or headgear,etc. However, there were some items that more than one society carried . On top of this, not all society members carried the same items. In some societies, there were only 2 pipe carriers, 2 fan carriers, 4 chieftans (who would wear the head gear)and so on. Oh, one more thing, sometimes, a person could be a member of more than one society as well!!! And sorry to say that although some of these societies do still exist, many if not most, do not and certainly the members of the remaining societies do not carry ALL the items of past society members. There's some food for thought.


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