Published on December 2, 2012 by Amy
Women’s Southern Traditional, or Women’s Southern Cloth dancing, is a very popular form of powwow dance among Native women. The style of dance originated during the reservation period in the 1840′s-1890′s, but declined due to the Government’s ban on Indian dancing. It saw a resurgence, as most types of powwow dancing did in the 1940-1950′s.
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In the 1800′s, white hunters drove off or killed any viable game, all the way down to rabbits, on the Southern plains. As a result, the native population began to starve and they were also unable to obtain fresh hides for new clothing, moccasins and lodges. The Government provided some of the Southern nations with bolts of cloth along with their rations. Women began to use this new material instead.
Early dresses were often made from whatever was available on hand. Muslin, standard cotton, wool or even burlap and canvas were used to make dancer’s regalia. The more hardy cloth, like burlap, was often lined with cotton or later synthetic materials. These days, polyester and cotton are the most often used. The Southern style is also easy to identify as many dancers lean towards very bright, shocking florescents and other hues not commonly found in nature.
The Southern style dress has many of the same components of the Women’s Traditional Dance regalia; a fan, leggings, moccasins and accessories such as otter drops are standard. One accessory not seen with Northern Style is a purse. This is a small bag that goes around the wrist and hold dollar bills or cough drops or the like. The style deviates, from the Northern style as the dress is a two piece design; the top is usually composed of a cape, or a blouse. If the dancer wears a cape, it is usually beaded or sometimes studded with real or imitation elk teeth. These are difficult to find and are regarded as very expensive in our way of thinking. The dancers moccasins are tall and extend past the ankle, up the calf, whereas the Northern style is set around the ankle. Another difference in is that Southern style moccasins are not usually as heavily beaded. When they are, it is easy to tell the Southern patterns from Nothern, based upon the colors and designs the dancers use.
The actual dance is danced the exact same way as the Northern Style Women’s. Both styles of dance can also opt to dance “old style”, where the dancer remains in place and simply bounces in time with the Drum. Women from very old traditional or highly respected families dance in this manner.
Regardless of the dancers’ origin, Women’s Traditional powwow dancers are regarded as sacred; they dance for those who cannot dance themselves and help to remind us to strive to persevere. The Women are the tradition carriers and it makes the People feel good to watch them dance.