The Rite To Dance

Dance is a common element of every Native American culture. Archaeological finds confirms the importance of dance to all indigenous people throughout the world. This powerful expression was used as a way to celebrate victories and acts of bravery in battle.

Dancing is an uplifting experience of self-transformation designed to bring the spirits into your life. The transformational energies you receive will help you to appreciate yourself, nurture your intuition and awaken your senses and inner wisdom for health and longevity.

It is an evocative, empowering process for self-renewal to enrich your creativity, spontaneity and to revitalize your being. By the end of the dance, you will have experienced the Tao of Mother Earth and Father Sky as exemplified by all the animals, the spirits and their friends. This life-changing experience creates a new foundation for realizing your full potential as the spirits dance on in you. Most dances have a great religious or social significance.

There are many different types of Dances in the Native American Traditions. Some have been extinct and are just being brought back through people's visions and some are Social Dances for people to gather and meet.

Here below will be listed the most popular type of dances and by no means is this to limit ourselves. It is only a media by which to communicate some of the most popular dances and to have people reflect on what is their own inner tribe or spirit dance. We as Two Spirited people believe that we are the medicines and have all the answers within us if we take a moment to get in touch with the inner self.

The Powwow

A Powwow was originally a spring event to celebrate the seasonal renewal of new life. People would congregate to sing, dance, renew old friendships and form new ones. Powwows had religious significance as opportunities to hold a naming, now usually conducted in the privacy of a family gathering and honoring ceremonies. The term "Powwow" is traced to the Algonquin language.

Powwows are still very much a part of the lives of many Native Americans throughout the United States and Canada and are held every weekend, often at several locations during the peak periods from June until September. Many families "go on the circuit", camp out and enjoy the traditional activities. Competitive singing and dancing, relatively recent changes, are often featured and prize money can paid out in these competition. If the people say this is a traditional powwow then prize money is distributed evenly to all the dancers.

The circle, an important symbol to Native American people, is used extensively in powwows. The dancers are in the center, the drums and the audience circle around them and the concessions surround the gathering. The powwow brings the circle of people closer to family, friends and the comfort and vitality of their culture.

The Sundance

The Sun Dance rite is over 2000 years old and celebrates renewal - the spiritual rebirth of participants and their relatives as well as the regeneration of the living earth with all its components - the ritual involves sacrifice of flesh, pulling of skulls, piercing of flesh and supplication to insure harmony between all living beings, and continues to be practiced by many contemporary native Americans.

It is the most spectacular and important religious ceremony of the Plains Indians of 19th-century North America and continues to be today. Ordinarily held by each tribe once a year, usually beginning at the time of the Summer Solstice. Today the Sun Dance begins as early as the month of May. The Sun Dance last from four to eight days. Depending on the Tribe, some dances begin by separating the dancers from the supporting crowd at the sunset of the final day of preparation before the dance. This isolation of the dancers, is to help them focus on the purpose of their dance. The dance ends at mid afternoon on the last day of dancing, usually accompanied by a feast sponsored by the receiving family. The Dance shows a continuity between life and death - and a regeneration of spiritual oneness with the Great Spirit. It shows that there is no true end to life, but a cycle of symbolic and true deaths and rebirths. All of nature is intertwined and dependent on one another. This gives an equal ground to everything on the earth. Powerful animals exhibit both physical and spiritual powers just as the Medicine Man Shaman and Sun Dance Chief do, and as do the grains of tobacco in the sacred pipe. However, just like the rest of nature, it is generally recognized within Native American peoples, that we as humans are pitiful and should give of ourselves to help keep the cycles of regeneration going.

The Native American tribes who practiced this dance were: The Arapaho, Arikara, Asbinboine, Cheyenne, Crow, Gros, Ventre, Hidutsa, Sioux, Plains Cree, Plains Ojibway, Sarasi, Omaha, Ponca, Ute, Shoshone, Kiowa, and Blackfoot tribes. Their rituals varied from tribe to tribe. Today, the Sundance has survived colonization through it's clandestine practice and has been revived. The importance here is to remember that there is no right or wrong way butto go and dance with your inner spirit and respect of the teaching of the elders who brought forth those rituals.

The Ghost Dance

The Ghost Dance started in the 1870's by a Native American prophet, and was handed down to his son Wovoka and reached its height of popularity in 1889. It is said that the Ghost Dance carries a meaning of reunion. "It reunites the father, family and relatives that were passed away or gone,". It was prophesied that if the Ghost Dance was practiced, the white man would vanish, bison would return and American Indians would get back their land. The Native who had died would be resurrected and reunited with their living relatives and disease and misery brought by the white settlers would be wiped out.

This prophecy, came at a time when Native Americans were being desecrated, and Wovoka vision returned hope to the Native Americans. The people who practice this ritual, sewed Ghost Dance shirts and dresses, made of cotton because they had no leather (the buffalo had become extinct). Symbols (stars, moon, thunderbird...etc) were drawn on them. During the dance, men and women took each other by their hands and moved slowly to the left in a circle. The dance, which lasted for 6 days, was performed every 6 weeks, and was forbidden by the whites because they feared riots. The dance stopped after the 1890 government suppression and massacre at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. It really never died, and continued to be practice clandestinely by some people. Today there are various forms of this dance as it has spread

throughout other Nations under various names.

The Rain Dance

Originated as a Hopi ceremony for drought in the Mid South West. It is also known as the snake dance which is a ritual that takes approximately 16 days and is very complex. For centuries the people of this high desert have practiced their only sure way to break a drought. They pray. They dance. Blessings of the Spirit come through the crown of the head, therefore no head covering while dancing. People are representatives of clouds - therefore more people, more clouds. God and nature are one, and the soul of all is one.

There are other Dances and some of them are open to Two Spirited people and some are completely Two Spirited like some of the Sun Dances or the Shoshone Naraya Dance