Powwow: Buckskin Dancing Essay Sample
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Following the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines
Known throughout many tribes as a dance of elegance and nobility, Buckskin dancing is reserved for the women of each tribe. It is one of the oldest remaining forms of dance still practiced by Native Americans today, both during Powwows for profitable gain, and also for tribal bragging rights. The movements and music vary from community to community, as do the movements. However, they dancing is typically flowing and smooth, allowing the dancers to showcase their elegance and refinery. The buckskins worn by the women are the traditional garb for a buckskin dance in every tribe, and are often dyed, and decorated with bead and ornate stitching. The buckskins themselves are worn primarily as capes, while the women carry shawls, much like men in similar dances. The dancing normally involves circling a drum, with the women bowing their heads in a slow, poised fashion, swaying to the beat. The clothing, music and movements vary throughout the tribes.
While traditionally the women participating in a buckskin dance were described as dancing in a circle around a drum, the women of the Ute tribe participating in a Powwow did the dance differently. All dressed in brightly dyed buckskins of green, blue, pink, yellow, and orange, they danced slowly back and forth in lines. Several women, fifteen in all, started at one ended of the dance floor, while several started at the other, and they danced in flowing motions across the floor until they had switched places. There were no children dancing. The drum kept a slow beat of eight; an older male Ute Native American could be heard singing in the background as the drum sounded. The powwow took place inside; it looked as though in a tent. The walls were lined with onlookers. The event was to celebrate Ute heritage, but was not an event to win money. The particular bear dance being performed was the Bear Dance, and it was a special occasion because it was a social dance performed in Spring when many tribes would gather and celebrate the melting of snow and a new hunting season.
Another Powwow featured women of the Catawba tribe, also performing the Buckskin dance. Much like the Southern Ute Powwow, the Catawba tribes’ women were not dancing in a circle around a drum. There were, however, only women dancing, no children or men. The buckskins were dyed deep purples, bright greens, and vivid blues. They all had white fringes and ornate bead work, as well. The Catawba tribeswomen wore headdresses, which was not seen during the Southern Ute powwow. The drumming during this Powwow was more energized than the previous one, playing twice as quickly, with no singing. The women still swayed delicately and poised however, bouncing from one foot to the other. They did not dance across the room, but rather danced in an incredibly slow circle, moving half a step every five to ten seconds, despite the quickened pace of the drum. The sway of their limbs was elegant and composed, even when the drumming became erratic. There only appeared to be eleven dancers in a large arena. Stadium-like stands can be seen in the background, though only the first few rows are filled, with people milling around on the arena’s floor itself. The drummer can be seen to the left of the dancers. No prizes were given for the buckskin dance; the event was held to celebrate traditional Catawba Native American customs, such as the buckskin dance, and other rituals that would have otherwise been at risk of being lost were it not for gatherings such as this.
The Cheyenne Native Americans at a Powwow in Denver also danced in the traditional buckskin ritual. Their garments were typically died deep reds and purples, though a few appeared tanned, with ornate beadwork. The shawls were black, with tassels. They swung gracefully at the dancers’ sides. A few of the dancers wore headdresses the most of them did not. There were thirteen participants. Much like the previous dances, the women involved did not dance eloquently around a drummer. The drum can be seen off to the right of the dancers, beating in the same relative tune as the Southern Ute tribe experienced. The women did not dance as much as in the other powwows; instead they stood in one place. They danced in time with the music, raising their feet slowing and gracefully. Their arms and upper-bodies swung with the beat of the music similarly to the tribes participating in the other powwows. Only women were participating in the powwow, there were no men or children dancing during the buckskin dance. This powwow was held indoor like the other two. More spectators can be seen in the background that the other two powwows, possibly because many tribes have assembled at this powwow. It is unclear whether the powwow’s events are to compete for money, or honor, but it is clear it is more than for the conservation of rituals that otherwise would be lost through the ravages of time.
In sum, though there were some differences in the dances between the tribes, they were primarily the same. The garments were always beautifully decorated, and the women always moved gracefully regardless of the beat of the drum. Only adult women were participating, never men or children. Some wore headdresses, though the primary regalia was a decorated or dyed shawl. The drum was not in the center of any dance; it was always off to the side. Each Powwow was held indoors, with spectators viewing the honored rituals unfolding. The dances, though they varied, were all beautiful. The women danced with respect and grace, allowing onlookers to see the time-honored traditions their tribes were attempting to keep safe. The buckskin dance, only performed by women in tribes across the country, is an exquisite Native American performance, showing the rich history of many tribes, as they are similar, but very different at the same time.
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