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This program was produced by our national educational radio a grant from the National Home Library Foundation and was compiled through the subtleties of pay you asked me radio at the University of South Dakota. This is a story of ruffled feathers Lakota Sioux in transition. This is the third in a series of programmes about the Dakota or Sioux Indians in South Dakota. Today's program deals with the Dakota music and dances the traditional Dakota dances are unchanged from the dances our ancestors did centuries ago. In fact the areas of music and dance are among the few areas of Indian life that have remained unchanged under the onslaught of non Indian culture. Perhaps the best known of the go to dances is the Sundowns Dr. Ian
Adamson holdall regents professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota talking with me about the Sundowns the sun dance as performed by Plains tribes of the Comanche got it only in the late 18th and middle 1870s the Cheyenne and the Arapaho are the tribes that developed it to the highest degree. Although the Dakota did not have the sun dance the longest of the Plains tribes or did not develop it to the highest degree. The dance is one of the most important dances in the Dakota repertoire. The Sun Dance is a midsummer dance or originally performed in June. I remember mid summer. On the annual cycle is June 21st it's actually a summer solstice dance associated with the sun being at its strongest development. The sun is not looked upon as a god or a deity by
many tribes but still it is recognized as the source of life and they recognize that in the winter when the sun is low in the sky when the sun has apparently been going through the process of dying that the plains become cold and bleak everything goes into dormancy and survival particularly on a primitive level was exceedingly difficult. But then after the winter solstice which is not ceremonially observed by the tribes of the northern plains the sun begins to grow and increase in strength and warmth and then reaches its height. This is the period then when life is renewed. Now the Sun Dance in its way is somewhat comparable to Easter in the Christian tradition. Easter is the reaffirmation of life the
rebirth and even as the Christmas ceremony is a winter solstice ceremony linked historically to the Persian cult of Mithras the God of light and truth and the rebirth and even as the early Christians used to say Christ is the sole noblest of the true son. So also then and I'm not suggesting here that the Sun Dance is derives from the Easter ceremonies at all. What I'm saying is that they are both responses to the fact that life is dependent on the sun. Although the sundown serves a function of renewal for the entire drive not everyone is an active dancer in the ceremony. Jake Herman of Pine Ridge South Dakota explains in his own words why the Sundowns was held and who danced in it. The Sundance has performed on many print like in time and the when the end you too will want a grain plane to get here again. They'd have a film that's nasty Greek to me through the wire and if the
paper is granted to them they do that then that's one of next is that you or anybody went to war and you had that he'd be a languor you pledge to do that when K. somebody thinking at them when you had that they'd need you for your help and if you did you hear Great Spirit cured and you pledge yourself to do this and that and pay that back you're going to move. One element of the Sundance that is unique among Dakota dances and is the infliction of pain that the dancers undertake during the ceremony the dancers have the skin of their chest back or arms pierced with sharp wooden sticks about six inches long. The sticks are inserted under the skin and the end of the stick exits a short distance away. Raw hide tongs are attached to each side of the stick and in turn are attached to a long rawhide rope which is securely fastened to a
cottonwood tree which has been cut down trimmed and placed in the center of the dance area. When all the dancers are pierced and in place for their dancing they are in a large circle each attached to the Sundance pole in the center. Their goal then very briefly is to break loose from the rawhide tongs and the stick piercing their skin. Obviously for this to happen the skin must tear loose allowing the stick and tongs to fall free that you're right in any case and if you want to make it. And at the Sundance I attended the piercing was very shallow and passed through about three quarters of an inch of skin. I had heard that many years ago the piercing was much deeper and considerably more painful.
I asked Jake about this and I am not 75 years old when I was a boy around 19 to me or to I need to know. Whoa time lawyers who know Neil from now and they had to use current money probably needs a loan and they claim that that to them they had to play. Now I'm going on that isn't that so the scar there haven't ever been proven to me that it is torture and maybe that is me. The Sundance is an integral part of the Dakota religion at least among the older members over there was a period of many years when the dance was banned because of its self mutilation aspects. In 1882 BT McGillicuddy the agent at Pine Ridge wrote the heathenish annual ceremony termed the Sundance will I trust soon be a thing of the past. J.G. right agent at the Rosebud Reservation stated that the Sundance ritual was an Aboriginal and barbarous festival according to history in 1880
to them and the like and they don't have the due to the fact that they were the name name again they thought it was here and he put it because he was one of 40 and not a regulation and wall but he did. So they end in his neck till 19 during a World War Two spotted crew asked me to write to the people than what he can see through the law again through our old myth and no not yet revealed word what they did have authority to do that and you people can put on. It will mean everything. The meaning of the Sun Dance to the tribal members will be examined more closely in the program on the go to religion since it is primarily a religious expression. The dam's itself is held inside a carefully defined area which is fenced off circular in shape. The
main entrance is on the east side. The Sundowns pole is in the exact center of the circle and is decorated with cloth of many colors. Iran hide Buffalo a replica of the peace pipe and other items of significance. The head Sun Dancer is responsible for getting the dancers to their appropriate places doing the piercing collecting the offering among other duties. Frank Fools grow tribal medicine man and head sun dancer for many years on the Pine Ridge Reservation will be a guest on the program dealing with religion. Edgar Redcloud a fourth generation grandson of the legendary Chief Red Cloud gives an example of Dakota music as he sings the Redcloud chief song. Who.
My people you wanted to be named to you being in one union
had a lot to play here. Well I want you to be an Indian but at same time there case need your help your lacking have quacked hearsay that it might people that said these were to me my and depleted through being depleted my people have a hard time. Jake Herman a good friend of Edgar Redcloud goes on to explain when the Red Cloud song was sung in the early days when all the people met it must be the entire Sioux Nation when they met this song with some dedicated famous chief such as Red Cloud the song for before the ceremony. Thought Kubrick clout or it could be dedicated to other Q too.
There is a Crazy Horse of the thought of the jeep but it's more popular more accepted by the slew of this nation. Almost everyone has heard of Crazy Horse. One of the more famous warts use of the soup people was the crazy or song. People like you what you do.
The turbulent years around 1876 gave rise to another of the Dakotas songs brought about by the search for gold in the Black Hills. We really need to cut that. It cut you because I
know you're there as a general rule. Not just anyone made up a song like The Red Cloud chief song or the Crazy Horse song Roman things that know all these great men deserve more respect. They compose the song sing the drummer they were ready to know compose a song from the word and then they sing songs over it so it's hard to pinpoint who is the original. We do know it come from. Order then. At any Dakota pow wow a visitor will see a number of different dances to the uncritical why they may all look alike but each dance is distinctly different. Jake explained some of the more common ones we had that part you know we had walked and then we had a victory dance and then we almost dances that you know throughout you know among the homeless who's
given time that's at play here and we down the Horde and the sun. Those are the main ones that we've that are some big Herman interpretating from Edgar Redcloud explains that the pot dance. That's a short but he said it's similar to the religious that he said that's all I'm giving thanks to the book The Great Spirit life in the Fox dance is another of the traditional Lakota dances that is still performed although it does not retain its original application. But then it's really religious saw a religious thing has been with a guy named warrior a boy who is choosing to go into that war party his mind in must be like for coming brave you know how to kill and so they say he belong to a cause that is for Clay. So he was known to live that song by prayer and so forth that he'd go to that and use that not only from the wow.
Using the forks as a symbol that he may be coming that the fox stands like most Dakota dances had an interesting origin. And like the Dakota himself the origin of the Fox dance came from Mother Nature. Legend says the war party when I think I don't hear or heard some with a scene from the Warriors got oh no never peeped opening to sing or sing in boxing and he was dancing toward me so that impressed then told people and the people who originated were in song and he said other songs passed. Similar to that and then a dance that had a grave impact on the Dakotas was the ghost dance. The outcome of the ghost dance era was discussed briefly on the last programme summarizes briefly the Ghost Dance period. The goat that you really needed but 1888.
I'll wrap and elaborate a little bit more on that because it was short burned kicking down close the doors went up and that's when they should meet an Indian the Indian They're known walk around among them quietly claiming you were in my side. And they'd gotten some religion they brought it back and whether it's been misconstrued the real meaning but anyhow they go down to Ridley to do through the swinging down ghost dance but their agent ordered them to stop but the sad part of. Bigfoot was no longer so he was home. Well her and in her so we know from the book here they call it that here to join Red Cloud Reds camp here because Wrigley wouldn't take part in that he had signed a treaty and no Mormon went over there and whether they killed him thinking he was one of the leaders the ghost that comes.
And I don't mean in Congress where we did not understand how the Course that somebody needed it was really no ceremonial part of the Indian telly brought back so there was this understanding that they killed Big Foot intentionally to stop the gold in that quest. Edgar Red Cloud sings the music of the Ghost Dance and Jake translates as an all dance music. The verse is repeated many times and certain sounds have no literal translation but are used to fill out the rhythm pattern. Mother cry
my mother with you. Come back you had when to the here and after we come back I mean that is the word trans and you know it and he had as it were of course some of them written just you know kind of homey to him and care for them. Harold shank Agency director of the Rosebud Reservation relates the procedure of the Ghost Dances that was told to him many years ago. These people just kept dancing without food or any rest until they just fell over completely exhausted and when they did somebody would come in and pick them up and take them back to their TV. They would sleep this dancing and go on day and night. She said they brought out some fellow that had slept his sleep out. He came out with his hands close and he said he dreamt his vision was that he had the wind in his hand. He said I should open my
hand. The wind would come out so strong to blow you away. All of these people who were dancing those dancers would scream and holler and say please don't open up your hands and he begged and prayed and so on and so forth. So he didn't open up his hand. She laughed and she said of course nothing would have happened had he opened up his hands but he didn't open them up so that people were happy. She said another time when she was watching the ghost dance they brought some fellow out he had had his sleep out. And he said he grunt he went to heaven and he saw a huge black door. It was oh it was so big. And as it came closer and closer and when he got up close so he could really see it. It was the boss farmer in other words Here is a man that was there in charge of the substation there like the county agent is today it was the boss farmer and nobody get to excited about that. This
man dreamt that he went to heaven also and she said she never had ever heard such screaming in her life. You know her entire life as this call that really unnerved the people she said that he dreamt that he went to heaven and that as he walked around all he could see were just Gores and scores of their children that had died and gone to heaven and they were walking aimlessly all over the place crying for their family. He even went so far as to name the individual children and point out people in the audience that he had seen their children. She said oh they just scream cry wail. We most often think of the Indium Tom-Tom or drum as the accompanying instrument to Indian singing in the early days of the Dakota culture however there were no drums.
Didn't you mean I mean they had drones All right. Most of them who would have been in this circle go back and forth in the heat. Course that loaded and drawn some but not all but most of you with just as the fox dance came from nature so did the other dances of the Dakota because the Dakota was very close to nature and entirely dependent upon it. Example. Early in the morning certain time in the air to see the parachute you know getting this sort of name down there in the early days of the Indian scene one and then the next have the dances originated from the very is why. The Indian he became a creature of Mother Earth. He named these people need down and read what you know wild man from nature. Many of the traditional and sacred songs and dances are being lost to the modern generation of Dakotas. There's hope that field work done for this series will open the door to recording many of the songs and their meanings. The main reason that the songs and dances are being forgotten
is that many of those who know the form are too old to do the dances anymore Ecker can't. Right now he knows it all but he can't practice in the I can't either but we know it. So we have to do it from Word and pass it on like the end that we pass from generation to generation. But now we have we can write right in the book or record we can be a great help to preserve that way we live again. I asked Jake why they didn't try to put on some of the dances and have schools so to speak on the songs and dances. We can do it with nobody. Young people won't go there you know maybe three four five old guys like that interested will be there. And to them it's Leno show and probably the movies up here or basketball game or so you know and they're involved and they're in that they're interested in there where they're not paying attention
to this or talk one might ask if the younger people no longer cared to the dances mean anything to anyone. It has many older people but due to our young people the modern ladies they've got. And there are just so Laden and for him to the end many of them forget it because it would unify the people. He did something that we should preserve and keep it you'd never hear that in the evening we have here. Yes the dances are held every year on many of the reservations in South Dakota. Should you be coming to South Dakota this summer. Check ahead with the Department of Public city for the state of South Dakota the powwows at each reservation are scheduled some months in advance. They are interesting and exciting to attend. What can be truly sad that the dances and music of the Dakota are one of the last of the elements of the traditional Dakota culture to the older Indians they still represent a way of life
to the younger generation. There's more of a social gathering. But let us hope that the powwow and the dancing are never lost to the Dakota people. I would like to thank Dr. E. Adams and Hobel regions professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota and chairman of the department there. Jake Hermann Carroll junk Agency director of the Rosebud Reservation and Edgar Red Cloud where the comments contained in this program. This is Arlin diamond speaking. With with. You're father the Dakotas who in transition was producer the facilities of how you asked the radio at the University of South Dakota. A grant from the National Home Library Foundation has made possible the production of this program for national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux
Sioux dances and music
Producing Organization
University of South Dakota
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on Sioux dances and music. It features Edgar Red Cloud, fourth generation grandson of Chief Red Cloud, singing traditional Sioux songs. The music was recorded at the 1966 Oglala Sioux Sun Dance Pow Wow.
Series Description
A documentary series about the history, culture and contemporary problems of the Sioux, a Native American tribe.
Race and Ethnicity
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Performer: Red Cloud, Edgar
Producing Organization: University of South Dakota
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-10-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:52
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Chicago: “Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux; Sioux dances and music,” 1967-02-21, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 27, 2024,
MLA: “Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux; Sioux dances and music.” 1967-02-21. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 27, 2024. <>.
APA: Ruffled feathers: The Dakota Sioux; Sioux dances and music. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from