Summer is the season when all of us on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation start our Wacipi (Pow Wows). Wacipi (dance) has been a part of my culture for many generations, and it was believed that it originated from the people calling to the Buffalo Nation.
Before the people would commence the buffalo hunt, they needed the help of the Buffalo Dreamers in the camp to communicate with the Spirits. The community would gather and start the steady beat of the drum. This would then be accompanied by sacred song and then dancing, so the Buffalo Nation would come to the people. This gathering was not just for the purpose of attracting the buffalo to the people, but was also a gathering to thank the Buffalo Nation for all that they provide for the people (clothing, shelter, food, utensils, ceremony implements).
As time went on, the Wacipi would include the gathering of neighboring tribes and different dances with special meanings would be performed, some for healing and others as a blessing. Today when a Wacipi is on, visitors see and here the spectacular dances and drums, but do not understand the significance behind some of the dances. One such dance that come to mind is the Jungle Dress Dance, it is an intertwining of rituals and beliefs into a celebration of life and healing of the spirit.
The origins of the Jingle Dress Dance are said to come from the Ojibwe tribe. It is believed that a Medicine Man had a recurring dream of four women dancing in dresses that has small metal cones hanging off them and making a jingle sound. As each of the Medicine Man’s dreams occurred, instructions were given on how the dress should be assembled, the types of songs that should be used, and the dance steps that should be used. On awaking, the man told his wife (what the spirits had told him) and how the dress should be made and also showed another four women how they should dance. The Medicine Men then shared his vision with the rest of the camp and told them about how the women would dance during the drum ceremony.
This legend tells that this vision was given because the granddaughter of the Medicine Man was extremely ill and the dance would heal her when she also wore the dress. When the drums started, the granddaughter was first helped to dance around the circle, then each time she made a full circle, her legs got stronger and she started to heal. Since the creation of the Jingle Dress Dance, it has always been known as the medicine dance, or a healing dance. Even though today the Jingle Dress Dance has included a feather fan and plumes on the top of the head, the essence of the jingles on the dress remains the same. So, when you attend your next Wacipi, remember when the Jingle Dress Dancers are performing and the soft sound of rain drops on a tin roof can be heard, they are dancing a powerful healing ceremony for all the people.
Thank You for your time and Being Part of the Legend.
From all of us at Hanblechia Designs.