Dancing to their Own Tune

Dancing and music tell stories in many cultures. Native American dances can act as forms of prayer, purification, initiation, ceremony, and healing. The Sun Dance, for instance, had varied forms depending upon the tribe performing it. It was held in late spring or summer (annually) and could last up to four days. The dancers fasted during its performance, and hoped to see a vision.

The Ute Bear Dance was another spring dance, performed when the first thunder was heard. The origins go back several hundred years and show respect for the spirit of the bear. Men and women (who wear shawls) form separate lines and dance in a back and forth pattern.  After the four-day dance, men could leave the plumes they were wearing on a cedar tree, and symbolically leave their troubles behind them.

Many Native American dances are still performed today.

Ute Bear Dance

Ute Bear Dance

Atsina Crazy Dance courtesy www.firstpeople.us

Atsina Crazy Dance courtesy www.firstpeople.us

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War Dance on Crow Agency, Montana courtesy Library of Congress

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