Published on August 29, 2011 by Amy
In late August, when it is quite dry, especially in the Southwestern United States, Native American tribes used to do a rain dance. Many Native Americans still perform the ritual today, and it can be seen on several reservations in the United States. Men and women gathered together for a rain dance and wore special headdresses and clothing. The jewels used in the clothing, such as turquoise, had special significance, as well as the patterns on the clothing and the use of goat hair in the headdresses. These special clothes were worn every year for the rain dance, and usually were stored the entire year for this purpose.
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The steps of the rain dance itself are quite intricate, and unlike circle dances, which are seen in many Native American ceremonies, the men and women stood in separate lines and made zigzagging patterns. It is significant that, while many Native American rituals involved only men, or at least, were more concerned with their influence, the rain dance involved both men and women, showing the importance of rain to the entire community. This rain dance was meant to bring rain for the entire year or for a specific season.
The rain dance was more common to Native American tribes who lived in dry, Southwestern regions which received little rain. The Pueblos, for instance, have a particularly intricate rain dance, since the little rain they do receive is essential for survival. Evidence on how each rain dance was performed is passed down through oral tradition, and the fact that some Native Americans keep these rituals alive today. Although many rain dance costumes appear in museums, some are actually worn by modern day tribes’ people during ceremonies or are kept as family heirlooms. The rain dance is still an important part of Native American consciousness, just as we are concerned with the amount of rainfall even in the modern world.