Graduation Year

2013

Abstract

In this paper, I provide a brief overview of the history and practice of the Native American Gourd Dance, a traditional ceremony integrating music and dance practiced by Gourd Dance societies in Southern Oklahoma. I examine the reasons behind its popularity and spread to other regions of North America, including the Southwest and the Northern Plains. Gourd Dance performances usually occur in the context of larger ceremonial gatherings called pow wows, in which Native American communities hold dances to celebrate their values and practice their religious beliefs and cultural traditions. Pow wows feature many traditional and more modern Native American dances, including War Dance, Omaha Dance, and Fancy Dance. The Gourd Dance usually precedes any other events on the program, including the Grand Entry, a ceremonial procession into the pow wow arena or circle made by veterans, dancers, and head members of the pow wow committee. Gourd Dance occupies a separate place in the schedule due in part to the fact that it has an entire body, or "repertoire," of songs specific only to the Gourd Dance. At the heart of its dissemination is its accessibility to anyone who wishes to learn how to perform it. The songs and customs of the Gourd Dance communicate spiritual and cultural values that have a rich and vibrant place in the traditional life of Native Americans.

Disciplines

Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology

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