Some Native American Dances

If you  have never attended a Pow Wow (traditional or competition) you are missing out on seeing something spectacular. The beautiful costumes of the various tribes all melding together in a kaleidoscope of swirling color is a sight to behold. You literally feel the excitement and pride of culture that the Native Americans are sharing with you and each other. Your eyes feast on the dancers that stand out in the competition dances and you pick your favorites who show incredible stamina and movements. You too, become as one with the drum before you know it.

Most dances you will see at Pow Wow's are both spiritual and personal to each dancer and their particular tribe. You will see different interpretations of the same dance done by tribes. But in all dances, the dancers must move to the beats of the drum and end the dance with both feet on the ground on the final beat of the drum. If you are in the air when the drum stops, as they say, "Stay there!," or you are disqualified in the competition dances.

What is a Pow Wow?

Pow Wow terms or definitions

Pow Wow Etiquette (Proper Behavior)

Some of the Dances (There are many more but these are most commonly done competition dances at Pow Wows.)

Men's Traditional Dance (the oldest dance in Native American culture)

Men's Grass Dance

Men's Fancy Dance

Women's Traditional Dance (an honor dance)

Women's Fancy Shawl Dance
    Judging the Fancy Shawl Dance

This is a nice example of Kiowa Women's Fancy Dance Shawl decorated with floral fabric. Measures about 62" x 56" with 16.5" fringe found on auction on Ebay.


Women's Jingle Dress Dance and story behind it

The Jingle dress began fairly recently from the Ojibwa Nation in the early 1900's. The dress came about from a dream, as the dancer moves the sound of the cones is to symbolize the cleansing power of rain to help with sickness. The Jingle Dress dance is a healing dance. There are (on a traditional jingle dress) 365 cones to symbolize every day of the year, and each cone is made from tobacco lids, tobacco, also being used as a healing agent, so they go hand in hand. The dress is to take one full year to complete. One cone a day, each cone is placed on with a prayer for the dancer and their family.

I purchased this beautiful jingle dress and a pair of small hand held shawls a couple of years ago. This dress has over 200 swinging, cheerfully clanking, jingles which can make a beautiful sound in dances. Competitive jingle dress dancing is very popular at Pow Wows.



While I like seeing all the dancers, I confess I do have a favorite tribe and the female dancers of the Sioux tribes stand out to me. The women come to the dance area wearing their doeskin dresses with its long fringe on the backs and along the underside of the full length arms. As they begin to dance to the beat of the drum they move their feet in a slow, smooth glide, with a slight dipping, floating motion. They hold their backs ramrod straight and head up in an extreamly proud and dignified manner. This particular step causes the long fringe on the backs and arms of the dress to gently sway as if you are watching a light breeze blowing across a large area of  thick, tall buffalo grass or wheat. It is incredibly sensual looking.

Ladies' Buckskin Dance

A few other styles of Dances other than discussed here.

All Native Americans have many dances they do, both for private ceremonial purposes as well as traditional and for competition. A Goggle search will bring up vast amounts of information on any tribe you are interested in.

VHS and DVD media are available on each dance above or on particular Pow Wows if you are not able to attend a Pow Wow yourself.