Native Americans use dances
for special occasions such as weddings, births, birthdays, and religious
The natives of
Alaska and Canada mostly use a type of dancing called drum dancing. Drum
dancing is used in ceremonies for dead ancestors. Everyone is invited,
including people from neighboring villages. The dancers wear beautiful
costumes and sometimes masks. The holders of the festival give presents
to the guests. Drummers sing while they are drumming, and the dancers,
men and women, move using their bodies to show feelings.
They also use dancing
for potlatches. A potlatch is a gathering for the community. A dance called
Spirit Dance is very popular. The dancers "catch" a spirit, and create
their own dance for their spirit. New dancers paint their faces and wear
brightly colored costumes. Sometimes dancers take on animal spirits for
their dance, and with the help of costumes that make them look like a raven,
bear, or another animal that they choose. Small presents are given to the
people that attend, so that they will be reminded to come back next year.
The people of Arizona,
Nevada, Utah, California, and Oregon do dances that honor certain things,
such as the Bear Dance that prays for enough food for the village, or the
Sun Dance that prays for enough sunlight to grow crops, and to worship
The people of the Pueblo
in the Southwest have dances that have to do with agricultural needs such
as water and crops- two important things in their lives. The Blue Corn
Dance is one type of dance for these people. In this dance, the people
of the village act out the planting, growing, and harvesting of crops.
The Hopi (a type of people) do a dance called the Snake Dance. This dance
lasts for 4 days. Snakes are caught and held all during the dance. Then,
at the end of the dance, the snakes are set free, hopefully taking the
prayers of the people to the sprits of the animals.
The natives of the plains
which were the Blackfoot, Lakota, and Crow celebrated by performing powwows.
Powwows originated in the 1800s. Powwows can be held for fun, or to serve
as reunions. Non Natives are sometimes invited to join in a powwow. There
are several strict rules if you are invited.
Dancing is a very
important part of the Native American culture. It has been kept alive in
some places, but has died out in others. But as for the tribes that still
dance the sacred dances, their culture will last for centuries to come.