Indian Games and Dances with Native Songs
Alice C. Fletcher

Part 1 out of 2

Produced by David Newman and PG Distributed Proofreaders

Indian Games and Dances
with Native Songs

Arranged from American Indian
Ceremonials and Sports


Holder of the Thaw Fellowship, Peabody Museum, Harvard University

_Author of The Hako, The Omaha Tribe, Indian Stories and Song, etc._


Dedicated to



This little book took its rise in the following experience that came to me
many years ago when living with the Indians in their homes and pursuing my
ethnological studies:

One day I suddenly realized with a rude shock that, unlike my Indian
friends, I was an alien, a stranger in my native land; its fauna and flora
had no fond, familiar place amid my mental imagery, nor did any thoughts of
human aspiration or love give to its hills and valleys the charm of
personal companionship. I was alone, even in my loneliness.

Time went on. The outward aspect of nature remained the same, but
imperceptibly a change had been wrought in me until I no longer felt alone
in a strange, silent country. I had learned to hear the echoes of a time
when every living thing upon this land and even the varied overshadowing
skies had its voice, a voice that was attentively heard and devoutly heeded
by the ancient people of America. Henceforth, to me the plants, the trees,
the clouds and all things had become vocal with human hopes, fears and

When I realized how much closer because of this change I had been drawn to
our land, how much greater had become my enjoyment of nature, the desire
arose to find some way by which I could help to make audible to others the
voice I had heard, and thereby restore to our hills and valleys their lost
human element. Impelled by this purpose I have arranged these dances and
games with native songs in order that our young people may recognize, enjoy
and share in the spirit of the olden life upon this continent.

My obligations are due to Mr. Francis La Flesche of the U. S. Bureau of
American Ethnology and to Mr. Edwin S. Tracy, Musical Director of the
Morris High School of New York City, for assistance in the preparation of
this book.



Song and Dance Among the Indians


The Life of the Corn (a Drama in Five Dances)
Dance I. The Corn Speaks
Dance II. Planting the Corn
Dance III. The Corn Springs Up
Dance IV. The Fields are Ready
Dance V. Honor to Mother Corn
Calling the Flowers
Appeal for Clear Sky
The He-de Wa-chi (An Omaha Festival of Joy)



Introductory Note
Pa-tol Stick
Plum Stone

Introductory Note
Hand Game
Hiding the Disks

Ball and Racket
Hoop and Javelin
Follow My Leader


Presenting the Child to the Cosmos
Giving the Child a Name
Bestowing a New Name
Taking and Indian Name in Camp
Indian Names for Boys
Indian Names for Girls
Indian Names for Camps





The adaptations from Indian ceremonies and sports here offered will enable
those who take part in them to follow in happy mood some of the paths of
expression that were opened long ago by thoughtful men and women as they
lived, worked and played on this land in undisturbed intimacy with nature.
Some of the thoughts bred of this intimacy find their expression in these
dances and games, and it may help toward a better understanding of them and
their spirit to tell briefly how the Indian looked upon and regarded his
relation to nature.

The natives of America thought of the cosmos as a unit that was throbbing
with the same life-force of which they were conscious within themselves; a
force that gave to the rocks and hills their stable, unchanging character;
to every living thing on land or water the power of growth and of movement;
to man the ability to think, to will and to bring to pass. This universal
and permeating life-force was always thought of as sacred, powerful, like a
god. To it a name was given that varied in the different languages; in the
Omaha tongue it was called Wakon'da. Through Wakon'da all things in nature
were related and more or less interdependent, the sky, the earth, the
animals and men. Nature was, in a sense, the manifestation of Wakon'da,
consequently it was regarded as something more than the means by which
physical life was sustained and became the religious and ethical instructor
of man.

All food came from the earth; the wild fruits, the roots, the cultivated
maize, these and the animals all derived their living power from Wakon'da
and yielded their life to man that he might live and be strong. Therefore,
the hunt was conducted with ceremonies in which the bounty of Wakon'da was
formally recognized, and when food was eaten thanks were offered to this
unseen power. The Indian lived in the open and watched with reverent
attention the changing aspects of his environment. To him nothing was
without significance, for all things were imbued with powers from Wakon'da
and could convey lessons or admonitions to be heeded by the individual and
by the people in their social life.

For example: the Indian noted the unfailing recurrence of day and night and
that upon the regularity with which one followed the other all creatures
relied, while man depended upon this constancy to carry out any given
purpose. From thoughts upon this natural phenomenon and its effects on the
actions of men, ideas arose that led the Indian to the conception of truth,
that something, as between man and man, that can be depended on both in
word and in deed. "Thus," the old men said, "Wakon'da taught us the
necessity of truthfulness, if we would live peacefully together." Other
natural aspects, as the storm, with its terrifying thunder and destructive
lightning, and the passing of the clouds revealing the blue sky, when the
birds renewed their song, seemed to picture to the Indian the devastation
of war and the happiness of peace. Again, the tree, compacted of many
parts, suggested how the tribe could be made to stand and become strong.

So it came to pass that as the ancient people looked about and thought on
what they saw, they gradually formulated ceremonies and adopted symbols in
order to express what they came to believe. All their rites, their
vocations, their pleasures were born, practiced and enjoyed under the
arching skies, and were permeated, as by a vital spirit, with an
unquestioning consciousness of oneness with nature.

We shall not be false to any great truths that have been revealed to us
concerning the world in which we live, if we listen to the olden voice, an
unseen heritage of our bounteous land, as it sings of man's unity with
nature. May they who join in these dances and games catch their vital
spirit and learn to feel at home with the winds, the clouds, the fields and
the woods.



While studying Indian life and thought through the sharing, as far as
possible, of native conditions, I discovered Indian music. In the
loneliness that naturally belonged to my circumstances this discovery was
like finding a flower hidden in a tangle hard to penetrate. I had heard
Indians "singing," but the noise of the drum, the singers' stress of voice,
so overlaid the little song that its very existence was not even suspected.
Circumstances at length arose, incident to my convalescence after a long
illness, when, to give me pleasure, my Indian friends came and sang softly
to me, without the drum. Great was my surprise to hear music; to be told
that I was listening to the same songs that the earnest men and women had
previously sung but which for me had been buried under a tumultuous din.
Thenceforth my ears were opened and never again, no matter how confusing
the conditions, did I fail to catch the hidden melody. As my appreciation
of the value of Indian music grew, I determined to gather and to preserve
these wild flowers of song. I wanted them not merely as a contribution to
the study of music but that they might help to vibrate the chords that
belong to a common humanity.

Of the songs I heard in solitude, some were published over thirty years
ago. Since then many of my gleaning have been used by different composers
and the musical message sent far and wide.

With the Indian, words hold a secondary or an unimportant place in a song.
The music and accompanying action, ceremonial or otherwise, convey the
meaning or purpose. When words are used they are few, fragmentary and
generally eked out with vocables. Frequently only vocables are attached to
a melody. To the Indian, song holds a place similar to that filled for us
by wordless instrumental music. In ceremonies, rituals occur that are
always rhythmically intoned; each line generally terminates in a refrain.
Songs have a place in these rituals, breaking in on the recital
particularly when an emotion is evoked, for music is the medium of
emotional expression. An old Indian priest explained this peculiarity by
saying: "Harmonious sounds unite the people."

Unaccustomed as we are to the use of songs that have no words, we would not
only find it difficult to understand their meaning but we would lose much
pleasure when singing them. To obviate the perplexities arising from the
Indian's peculiar treatment of words and to make clear the meaning of a
song, words have been supplied. These words are in no instance a literal
translation, for the few broken words that belong to some of the melodies
used in these Dances and Games, because of their fragmentary character,
would have no value as an interpretation either of the music or of the
action. In a number of instances the original vocables are retained, where
the music is merely a rhythmical accompaniment to a simple, easily
understood movement. Where words are given to a song, they follow closely
both the accents and the rhythm of the music. The written stanzas are not
meant to be read but to be sung. They express the thought or the feeling
that gave rise to the music, they aim to make its meaning understood so
that the song can be intelligently sung. In arranging these words, care has
been taken never to forget or to change the natural and the psychical
environment that belongs to the melody.

Indian songs are very short. They have no preliminary measures, but at once
voice the actuating emotion; that done, they come to a close. Although they
are so short, they have form and in their structure follow in simple lines
the rules of phrasing and motivization taught in our schools. These songs,
speaking in general terms, partake more of the character of motifs than of
musical compositions. They do not stand alone or apart from the ceremonials
or pleasures of which they form an essential feature.


The different Indian tribes vary in their modes of dancing; moreover, the
same theme is not interpreted by all the tribes in the same manner. In some
sections of our country the dancers wear costumes and masks that are
symbolic, both in color and form; in other regions, feathers are the
principal and emblematic decoration; elsewhere, the men may dance very
nearly nude. However diverse the dancing regalia may be or how marked its
absence, the Indian dance always presents two characteristics, namely:
Dramatic Action and Rhythmic Precision.

Every Indian dance has a meaning. The dance is generally either the acting
out of some mythic story or a presentation of a personal experience. Every
movement of the body, arms, hands, feet and head is always in strict time
with the songs that invariably accompany the dance. Indian dances are
complex rather than simple. Their "spontaneous activity" is not the result
of "a dominating emotion" but of a desire to present dramatically certain
mental pictures. This is particularly true of dances which form a part of
religious ceremonials. As a consequence, none of these dances are
improvised. All follow forms that have been handed down through generations
and have become more or less conventionalized.

When the dance portrays a personal experience the dancer is allowed a
freedom of invention not elsewhere permitted. Even in this case the dancer
is obliged to follow certain conventional forms, as in the sign language;
otherwise his story would not be understood.

On the eastern continent the peoples from whom we are descended had songs
and dances peculiar to their different vocations, so on this western
continent the song and dance were the accompaniment of the Native

A study of the Indian dramatic dances shows that by means of them the
vocations of men and women were lifted out of drudgery, made types of
activity and allied to the forces recognized in the religious beliefs of
the people. The dances here given, those relative to the Corn and also the
Hede-wache, not only illustrate what has been said above but they reflect
back a light upon the religious dances that obtained among the eastern
nations of antiquity.

When the Indian dances, he dances with freedom; his whole body becomes
expressive of the actuating emotion of the scene he intends to portray.
Because of his freedom, his remarkable sense of rhythm and the strong
mental picture he aims to present, whether it be the flight of the eagle,
the sportive pleasure of birds, the movements of animals, the alertness of
the warrior in attack, or in eluding a blow, his motions are always sharply
vivid and natural.

It is a pleasure to be able to offer in the following pages a number of
Indian songs with their original accompaniment of action, as the two
complement each other for the expression of certain native thoughts and

Whoever takes part in the dances here presented should never attempt to
imitate what is supposed to be the Indian's manner of singing or his
dancing steps and postures; in either case the result would probably be an
unmeaning burlesque. Each dancer should have a clear mental picture of the
scene to be enacted and then give free play to bodily movements for its
expression, always keeping in rhythm with the song, so as to make sound and
motion a rhythmic unit.



INTRODUCTION.--These Dances in their purport and music are taken from the
sacred rituals of the Omaha, the Osage and the Pawnee tribes. The richness
and beauty of symbolism in the original language suffer a loss of native
naivete in their English interpretation.

The American food plant known by the general term "Corn" was developed ages
ago from certain native grasses. The _Euchlaena luxurians_ found in
Guatemala is probably an ancestor of the maize. The word "maize" belongs to
the language of a people living by the Caribbean Sea and never was a
universal term for corn among the Indians of our country. The tribes to
which maize was known gave it a name derived from their own languages. So
very many centuries have passed since corn was a grass that there is no way
now of finding out when in the remote past the natives of this continent
began the task of developing from a grass a staple article of food like the
corn. The process required years of careful observation, manipulation and
culture. Not only did the Indians accomplish this task but they took the
plant from its tropical surroundings and acclimated it throughout the
region east of the Rocky Mountains up to the country of short summers in
the North; Cartier, in 1534, found it growing where the city of Montreal
now stands.

From this hasty glance at the long history of the maize we can discern the
natural sequence of its close relation to the thought and to the life of
the Indian, and to a degree understand the love and the reverence with
which the corn was held and regarded as a gift from God. Every stage of its
growth was ceremonially observed and mentioned in rituals and songs.

Among the Omaha tribe when the time came for planting, four kernels from a
red ear of corn were given to each family by the keeper of this sacred
rite. These four red kernels were mixed with the ordinary seed corn, that
it might be vivified by them and made to yield an ample harvest. Red is the
symbolic color of life. In this ceremony is preserved a trace of the
far-away time when all the precious seed corn was in the care of priestly
keepers. The ceremony of giving out the four red kernels served to turn the
thoughts of the people from a dependence solely on their own labor in
cultivating corn to the life-giving power of Wakon'da dwelling within the

In the Omaha Ritual Song of twenty-six stanzas which preceded the
distribution of the four red kernels, the Corn speaks. It tells of its
roots reaching in the four directions (where dwell the messengers that
bring life), of the growth of its jointed stalk, of the unfolding of its
leaves, of the changing color of the silk and of the tassel, of the
ripening of the fruit, of the bidding of the people to come, to pluck and
to eat.

The music of this Ritual Song is simple. It is here given with a very brief
paraphrase of the words of the Ritual Song.


INTRODUCTORY NOTE.--This ceremonial dance touches upon the mystery of the
giving of life that life may be maintained; an exchange that links together
the different forms of life and enhances the joy of living.

_Properties_.--Thin green mantles; yellow plumes like the corn tassel; bone
clips; as many of these articles as there are dancers.

_Directions_.--This dance belongs to both sexes and a number of each should
take part, if that is possible. Should there be trees near the open space
where the dance takes place, one-half of the dancers, closely wrapped in
their green mantles, should be grouped at one side among the trees and the
other half similarly placed at the other side. In the center of the space a
single dancer stands facing the rear, wrapped about the head and body with
the green mantle, leaving only the face exposed.

All being in readiness, the central figure turns slowly, lifts a draped arm
and says slowly and impressively:

"Harken! The Corn speaks!"

The group of dancers on the right then sing softly the _first_ line only of
the Ritual Song in which the Corn speaks. The group of dancers on the left
repeat the _same_ line like an echo of the first group. Both groups of
dancers now begin to move slowly and in rhythm with the following song
toward the figure standing in the center of the space, singing, as they
move, the Ritual Song _from the beginning_:

Ritual Song No. 1

Fourfold deep lie my roots within the land;
Clad in green, bearing fruit, Lo! here I stand!
Pluck and eat, life for life, behold, I give!
Shout with joy, dance and sing with all that live.


At the words "Lo! here I stand!" the company of dancers should all be
standing in a semi-circle. As the words in the third line, "Behold, I
give!" are sung, the draped arms should be slightly extended forward as in
a presentation. The fourth line requires some dramatic action, but it
should be restrained rather than free. The arms, still draped with the
green mantles, should be raised a little as the words "Shout with joy" are
sung, and during the singing of the remainder of the line swayed from side
to side in rhythm with the song, always with a reserve in the movements,
because of the mystery mentioned in the words of the song, that life is
maintained by the giving of life. A pause of about two beats should follow
this Ritual Song.

As "Ho-o! Ho-o!" the opening of the next song, is given, every dancer
should suddenly turn half-way round, give a movement of the head such as
would cause the mantle to fall back and leave the head with the corn tassel
exposed; the ends of the mantle should be gathered in the hands so that the
mantle can wave with the dance as the following song is sung:

Song No. 2

Ho-o! Ho-o!
Dance we singing,
Promise bringing
Of the wealth of summer fair;
Hearts beat lightly,
Skies shine brightly,
Youth and Hope are ev'rywhere.

_Refrain_: Ho-o! Ho-o! Ho! Ho! Ho!


As each "Ho-o!" of the refrain is sung, the dancers should whirl like merry
sprites, twine and untwine their green mantles about their forms until the
song begins again. Then they should all skip off with springing, rhythmic
steps in open Indian file, letting their mantles float and wave about them
as they wind in and out over the camp ground carrying "Youth and Hope
ev'rywhere." Every time the refrain is reached, the dancers should stop and
whirl, then as the song begins again move off in line, dancing as before.
When they are ready to stop (that can only be done during the singing and
whirling of the refrain), each dancer should whirl from the line and keep
up that movement, singing "Ho!" until his or her tent is reached.


INTRODUCTORY NOTE.--The rituals and ceremonies from which this dramatic
dance with its accompanying songs are taken have been handed down through
numberless generations. They deal with the perpetuation of the vocations of
the people and also with the duties of the warrior, who must so protect the
people that these vocations can be pursued in peace and safety. The portion
of the ritual that relates to the planting of the maize is here given. It
is practical in character. The ground is to be cleared of the debris of
winter's storms and the dead leaves and twigs gathered into heaps and
consumed by fire. When the brown earth is uncovered on the sunny slope it
is to be mellowed and made into little hills with flattened tops to receive
the kernels of the corn. The first seven of these hills must be
ceremonially planted. Into the first hill one kernel of corn is dropped,
two kernels are put into the second hill, three in the third, and so on to
the seventh, in which are placed seven kernels. The product of these seven
little hills must be kept separate, for it is to constitute the "first
fruit offering" made to Wakon'da, through the priest, in recognition of the
gift of corn as food. After the seven hills are completed, then the rest of
the field is similarly prepared and planted. When the kernels are put in
the loosened ground they are covered and stamped with the foot, so that
each little hill beards the mark, the footprint, of the planter. The Ritual
Song depicts the task of planting to its completion and compares the rows
of little brown hills to lines of buffalo following one another down the
slope. With this vision, suggesting the promise of abundant food, the
workers joyfully turn toward the home fireside.

The words given for the first song are a brief paraphrase of the many
stanzas of the original Ritual Song, which so touches the necessary acts of
the planter as to lift them above a merely prosaic level.

_Properties_.--As this dance represents work, no scarfs or mantles are
used. The garments should be plain and the arms free for the necessary
dramatic motions in portraying the various acts connected with clearing,
preparing and planting the ground. In ancient times the hoe used for this
work was made from the shoulder blade of the elk, or a stick three or four
feet long shaped at one end like a wedge. Similarly shaped sticks of wood
should be used in this dance, one for each dancer. Pouches are required
made of brown cloth, with broad bands or straps long enough to pass over
the shoulder and chest and to let the pouches hang at the back. Both
pouches and straps should be ornamented with geometric designs painted in
red, yellow, blue or green; two or three of these colors should be combined
in each design. The corn carried within the pouches can be represented by
rounded chips, little stones or, when possible, by the corn kernels

The boys must wear head-bands, carry bows and have quivers hung at their
backs. They must scatter around the border of the "field," move watchfully
about, peer into the distance and act as if on the alert to detect or to
meet any prowling enemy.

_Directions_.--A space should be set apart to represent the "field" where
the dramatic action takes place. This dance requires considerable dramatic
pantomime. The words in the two lines of each stanza of the song serve as a
prelude to the action which follows. Sometimes the action may be confined
to the refrain, but generally there must be acting throughout the singing
both of the words and the refrain. Much in this dance must be left to the
imagination and skill of the group of dancers, who should rehearse together
and decide how best to make a clear, strong picture. The native music here
given belongs to the act of preparing the ground and planting the kernels
of corn. Attention is called to the second, fourth, sixth and eighth
measures of the song. The three-quarter notes and the eighth and rest
should be accented by movements of the hoe, the foot or both. The rhythm of
the first measure is a little different from that of the third, fifth and
seventh, caused by the third note being a quarter note, denoting a definite
act or pause; the remaining four notes of the first measure are flowing, as
well as all the notes of the third, fifth and seventh measures. By
observing these little points in the music the drama will be given variety
and made more picturesque and effective.

At the beginning of the song the dancers should be at a little distance
from the space set apart to represent the "field," so that they will be
able at the proper time to go toward it. As the first line of the first
stanza is sung the dancers should stand in a loose group, adjust their hoes
and pouches to be ready to go to the "field"; during the singing of the
second line they should break into a file and move off. All these movements
of body, hands and feet must be in strict time and rhythm with the music.

Song No. 1


Here we stand ready now to go on our way
To the field, buried under leaves dead and gray.

_Refrain_: Ah hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they ha!
Ah hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they ha!


By the end of the first line of the refrain the dancers will have reached
the "field" and have begun to dispose themselves over the space. Seven must
stand in the first row, where they are to make the seven ceremonial hills.
These seven dancers should lead the motions of all the others, so that the
movements may present even lines, as in the bowing of violins in an
orchestra. The refrain should be repeated as many times as is necessary
while the dancers are taking position, clearing the field, etc. The number
of repeats must be determined upon at the rehearsals of the dancers.
Sufficient time should be taken to bring out the picture and to give it in
perfect rhythm with the music. When the refrain closes, the dead leaves and
twigs are supposed to be gathered into heaps ready to be burned.


See the fire send its "word of flame" mounting high,
Now the smoke rolls about the earth, shuts out sky.

_Refrain_: Ah hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they ha!
Ah hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they ha!

The action for this stanza should indicate the heat of the fire; shielding
the face, pushing back stray leaves or twigs to the burning heap; the
rolling smoke follows the dancers, who here and there try to escape it.
This scene will require study to bring out the picture rhythmically. It
should form a contrast to the preceding and the following scene, in both of
which the movements are more or less uniform. In this scene groups should
emphasize certain conditions: the fire, the smoke, the work of keeping the
heaps together, so that the picture will be one of action diverse to a
degree and yet every movement dominated by the rhythm of the song; the
picture will thus be made a unit.


Mellow earth, make the little, hills smooth on top,
On the earth softly the kernels we drop.

_Refrain_: Ah hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they ha!
Ah hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they ha!

In the action of this stanza the seven dancers in the front row make seven
ceremonial hills, mellowing the earth with the wooden hoes and gathering it
into little hills made smooth on top. The pouches are swung to the front,
the corn taken out with one hand while the other holds the hoe at rest, and
the kernels are dropped on the softened earth. The dancers should be
careful to remember that in the ceremonial row of seven hills but one
kernel is to be dropped in the first hill, two in the second, and so on up
to seven in the seventh hill. All the dancers scattered over the "field"
must follow the movements of the seven in charge of the seven ceremonial


Cover all gently, leave the print of our feet
On the earth mellowed fine, so brown, so sweet.

_Refrain_: Ah hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they ha!
Ah hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they ha!

In the action for this stanza the hoe and the feet of the dancers have a
special part. The movements of the dancers should represent the covering of
the dropped seed with the mellowed earth and the making of the footprint on
the top of the little hill within which the seed is now hidden. In the
native Ritual Song the term "footprint" is used symbolically; it represents
a person--in this instance the one who had done the work--also the work
itself that has been accomplished. The dancers should be careful to
remember the rhythm of the second, fourth, sixth and eighth measures, as
these can be used to emphasize "footprints" and also the completion of the
task. During a repeat of the refrain the dancers should drop their hoes and
gather in groups as if to look at the field; this action will bring them
into the position required for the fifth stanza.


How like lines of buffalo upon the slope,
Lie our little brown hills, so full now of hope.

_Refrain_: Ah hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they ha!
Ah hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they ha!

The motions of the hands and the movements of the body should indicate that
in looking over the field one is struck by the striped appearance made by
the rows of little hills, recalling the resemblance to the buffalo
descending the slope. The final "ha!" of the refrain should indicate
pleasure. A brief silence should follow, during which the dancers pick up
their hoes, adjust their pouches, fall into line and sing the following

Song No. 2

Light our hearts and gay
As we homeward take our way,
While the winds about us play,
Singing as we go.
Hy-ya hy-ya hy-ya ho!
Hy-ya hy-ya hy-ya ho!
Hy-ya ho!
Hy-ya ho!


This song should be repeated many times as all the dancers, with rhythmic,
springing steps, wind about the camp ground before they finally disperse.


INTRODUCTORY NOTE.--This dance is from the Corn Ritual Song and is a
dramatization of a visit to the planted field after the lapse of a few
weeks. Life has been stirring in the kernels of corn that had been hidden
within the little hills, and the kernels now call to those who had planted
them to come and see what was taking place.

_Properties_.--The same as those used in the preceding dance. Both the boys
and the girls should wear the same costume as in Dance II.

_Directions_.--The scene should be the same as in Dance II. The "field" to
be visited should be in the same place as the space set apart for the
"field" where the little hills were made and planted.

A part of the boys should act as guards of the "field" as before. A few
should scatter among the girls and join in looking at the sprouting corn as
it breaks through the soil, and these should join in singing the song.

At the opening of the dance the dancers should be discovered standing in
groups as though they had accidentally met as neighbors of the same
village. They should stand at the same place whence they had started to go
to the "field" in the preceding dance. The groups should be talking in dumb
show. Suddenly each group should act as if its attention had been arrested
by a sound, and while in this attitude of arrested attention all should
begin to sing the following song:



A call I hear!
Hark! soft the tones and weak.
Again the call!
Come! our feet that call must seek.

_Refrain_: Hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Again the call!
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they.


This dramatic dance will require to be rehearsed and the details planned by
the dancers, so that a clear picture may be brought out and also the native
poetic thought embodied in the Ritual Song from which it is taken. A few
hints can be given, but much of the action must depend upon the imagination
and dramatic feeling of the dancers.

As the first line, "A call I hear!" is sung some one should raise the hand
toward the ear, another raise it as a warning to keep quiet. The line
"Hark! soft the tones and weak" is an address to one another in the groups.
Then comes another sudden arrest, "Again the call!" These three lines
should be sung without any change of position either by the groups or by
the individuals. Action should be confined to the hands and the head. When
singing the fourth line all should begin to stir, to adjust their pouches,
tighten their hold on the wooden hoes and, as if moved by a common impulse,
should prepare to go and seek the source of the call. In their going the
groups should not fall into one line but each group move by itself. During
the refrain the dancers should act as if in doubt which way to go. At the
line "Again the call!" all should stop as if arrested, and then move off
again when the refrain is taken up. All the groups should keep the rhythm
of the music. There should be a good deal of by-play and the action should
indicate bewilderment, both as to the meaning of the call and the locality
whence it comes. It should appear as though some of the groups are baffled
in their attempt to locate the call.


A call I hear!
Hark! it is near at hand,
The call! The call!
Floats to us where we now stand.

_Refrain_: Hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Again the call!
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they.

The action of this stanza shows the dancers being led by the call to the
"field," where the call seems to become clearer and at last is there
located. The dancers should scatter in groups, while different individuals
should look about searchingly but without breaking the groups. These should
move here and there seeking for the "footprints" that had been left on the
smooth tops of the little hills, and so lead to the action required for the
next stanza. Whenever in the song the line "The call! The call!" occurs,
there should be an apparent arrest of movement among the dancers as if to


Again the call!
Forth to the light of day
They come! They come!
Come pushing upward their way.

_Refrain_: Hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
They call! They come!
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they.

"Day" is the symbol of life; the kernels are coming "into the light of day"
in the original Ritual Song, meaning they are entering into life. They call
as they come, struggling and pushing their way through the breaking earth.
This life movement should be indicated by the motions of the dancers as
they pass in groups with rhythmic steps from one little hill to another.
Directions as to how these motions should be made would hardly be helpful;
the dancers can best plan this pantomime.


Again the call!
Two feeble leaves are seen,
They call! They call!
Soon shall we stand clad with green!

_Refrain_: Hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
They call! They call!
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they.

The original Ritual Song tells that the feeble leaves, the first shoots,
cannot stand or support themselves; they are helpless as infants. But they
have come to the "light of day," "have entered into life," and they will
grow, become strong and stand, stretching ever higher into the light. The
native stanzas portray the progressive movements of the corn from feeble
helplessness into the power of life. The action of the dancers should
convey this meaning by appropriate pantomime.


They call! They call!
Up springs our jointed stem,
They call! They call!
Golden fruit shall grow on them.

_Refrain_: Hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
They call! They call!
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they.

In this stanza the promise of fruit is given. The dancers should show
excitement not only at the wonderful spectacle they observe but because of
the promise given.

They should still keep in groups as they move about and exult in the
results that have come from the little hills where they left their

In the original Ritual Song there are more than a score of stanzas in which
the various occurrences of the growth of the corn are mentioned, mingled
with symbolic imagery. "Footprints" represent both labor and ownership.
Those who planted the kernels look for these marks and rejoice over what
they find. They had begun their planting "like a game," a venture; whether
it would be successful or not no one could tell. But success had come. The
action for the last stanza should indicate an abandonment to delight; hoes
should be dropped as the groups mingle and act out pleasure not only at
what is seen but what is promised.

A pause should follow, then the hoes should be picked up and the dancers
gather by twos and threes in a line to return home; as they start they
break into the same song which they sang on the return from making and
planting the little hills:


The dancers should keep up the song and rhythmic dance until their
individual tents are reached.


INTRODUCTORY NOTE.--This dance, taken from the Corn Ritual, represents a
visit to the field later in the season when the harvest time is near at
hand. The keynote of this visit is in a line of one of the many stanzas of
the original Ritual Song, "I go in readiness of mind." The mind is assured,
prepared to find in the place where the "footprints" had been made, where
the little kernels had broken the covering of earth to reach "the light of
day," that these have now grown tall and strong under the summer sun and
are "standing in the fulness of day." This assurance is justified, for the
corn is found ready to pluck, and some of its ears are joyously carried to
the people at home.

_Properties_.--The same costumes as those worn by the boys and girls in
Dance II and III. The green scarfs used in Dance I will be needed in the
latter part of this dance; these can be folded and carried in the pouches
and pockets.

_Directions_.--The scene should be laid in the same place as the two
preceding dances and the dancers should gather at the same spot whence they
started to the "field" in Dance II and III.

The dancers, both boys and girls, should be discovered standing in an open
group talking together in dumb show, evidently discussing the probabilities
as to the ripening of the corn. They may have been saying: "Already the
boys are shouting, The cattail is in bloom!" This was a sign that the time
had come for the corn to be ripe. Some one whose mind was "in readiness"
makes the suggestion (in pantomime) to go to the "field"; to this all
agree, and the group breaks into lines as the boy and girl dancers sing the
following song:



In readiness of mind to the field we go,
Where we footprints made, there stately jointed stalks grow.
Loud rustle the long leaves, bright the tassels wave o'er each row.

_Refrain_: Ah hey hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they.


The steps of the dancers must be in rhythm with the song and all movements
should indicate a feeling of assurance. When the "field" is reached certain
motions of the feet should suggest a memory of the "footprints." The
"field" is now covered by rows of tall cornstalks; therefore, when the
"field" is reached the dancers should move in parallel lines, as if they
were passing between these rows. Some lines should cross at right angles,
giving the effect of walking between high barriers, along pathways that
intersect each other at right angles. When the dancers pass along these
alleys, so to speak, movements should be made to indicate brushing against
or pushing out of the way the "long rustling leaves" of the corn, and to
point to the "waving tassels" far above their heads. This pantomime, with
its rhythmic movements suggesting long lines of cornstalks, the brushing
aside with the hands of the long leaves of the stalks, should make an
effective picture.


Strongly the ears shoot out, fill'd with golden grain,
Up into the full light, life flowing in each vein,
Sacred the corn now stands ready to give its strength full fain.

_Refrain_: Ah hey hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they.

The length of the original Ritual Song, together with the picturesque
quality of the native language, permits the bringing out in full detail of
this scene of the cornfield: the ears standing at angles from the stalk,
and the husks full of kernels replete with life-giving power. Because of
this power the corn has now "become sacred," filled with life from
Wakon'da, thereby related to that great power and through it linked to the
life of mankind. The idea of this unity throughout all nature, including
man, is fundamental to Indian thought and belief. It is expressed in all
his religious ceremonies and also in his vocations, both serious and
playful. In the present instance it appeals to him through the planting,
the growth, the maturing and the use of the corn, giving its life to man.

To convey the picture of the cornfield, and to suggest the thoughts that
imbue the scene as expressed in the native rituals, will require some
study, but the effort will be well worth while. These thoughts were vital
upon this continent centuries before the land became our home. The maize in
all its richness and beauty has become ours to enjoy, and while we accept
this gift let us not fail to catch and to hold the lingering vibrations of
its native teaching that aimed to lift the thoughts of the worker in the
cornfield to the Great Giver of Life and Beauty.

In planning the pantomime for this stanza the dancers should not forget the
rhythm of the song and to keep the lines as though they were walking
between rows of tall cornstalks.


Where'er we look wide fields wait harvest to meet;
Ripe are the ears we pluck, juicy the corn we eat;
Filling our arms, we go homeward, happy hearts there we meet.

_Refrain_: Ah hey hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey hey hey they,
Ah hey hey they,
Ah hey they.

The action requisite for the interpretation of this stanza by pantomime is
comparatively easy, as looking over the field ready for harvest, and
plucking a few ears of the corn. Care should be taken not to appear to
touch the row where the seven hills were made, for the product of these are
to be used as the "first-fruit offering." During the singing of the first
line of the third stanza a few of the dancers should slip behind some of
the others and there take out their scarfs from the pouches or pockets,
make each scarf into a loose bundle and carry it upon the folded arms as
though it was filled with ears of corn. In this way, a few at a time, the
dancers can secure their scarfs, and arrange them to look like bundles of
corn to be taken homeward.

All the lines that have been moving as between rows of corn should now come
together and form a long line and with dancing, rhythmic steps, and arms
filled with corn, return to the starting place, and from there wind about
the camp ground singing the refrain, which can be repeated _ad lib_. until
they finally disperse and go to their tents.


Introductory Note.--This dance represents the bringing of the "first-fruit
offering" of the corn from the seven little hills that were ceremonially
planted after the dead leaves of winter had been cleared away. The dancers
who follow the seven leaders carrying the cornstalks represent the people
in triumphal procession in honor of Corn as "Mother breathing forth life."
Both words and music of the song for this procession are taken from a great
religious ceremony of the Pawnee wherein Corn is spoken of as A-ti-ra,
Mother, with the prefix H' signifying breath, the sign of life. "H'A-ti-ra"
("Mother breathing forth life") is repeated over and over and is the only
word used in this song. The repetition is not an idle procedure but an
awakening of echoes in the native mind, of all that Corn has meant to his
ancestors and race during the centuries. The repeated words imply
contemplation on the subject. This song when heard sung by a hundred or
more could not fail to impress one with its majestic fervor. The beautiful,
bountiful maize giving its life that others might enjoy life, on another
plane, is here reverently and joyously proclaimed "Mother."

_Properties_.--Green and other bright colored scarfs or mantles, as many as
there are dancers, boys and girls, also wreaths made of long leaves like
those of the cornstalk; these can be manufactured from green paper. Tall
yellow plumes, similar to the tassel of the corn, and fastened to the
wreath in such manner that when the wreath is worn the plume will stand
above the forehead. Seven cornstalks, or wands so wound with green as to
appear like the stalk of the corn with its tassel.

_Directions_.--All the dancers should be wrapped in their mantles and have
on their wreaths, the erect tassel plume standing directly over the middle
of the forehead. Boys and girls must mingle in this dance. All dress as
before, with the addition of the mantles. Implements, pouches and bows and
arrows are not used. Of the seven who are to lead, four should be boys and
three girls. When leading the procession and carrying the cornstalks, the
first line of four should be a boy, two girls, a boy; the second line of
three should be a boy, a girl, a boy. These seven must wear green robes or
mantles and hold the cornstalks, with their hands draped by the mantle. The
other dancers can wear green or other colored mantles or scarfs. The boys
must sing the songs, for the volume of sound must be full in order to
produce the true effect of this impressive ceremony. The seven dancers who
have been selected to act as leaders should stand in a group by themselves
in front of the other dancers, who are in loose groups at the rear. On the
space which heretofore in these dances has represented the "field," the
seven cornstalks or wands should be laid in a windrow on the ground. When
ready to begin the dance the dancers should be discovered in the two groups
as already described, talking quietly in dumb show.

The seven leaders, who are in the front group by themselves, appear to
consult together; then, led by one of their number, sing the following

Song No. 1


Golden on ev'ry hand,
Waving, the cornfields stand,
Calling us thither;
Calling us thither,
First-fruits to cull and bring
Our sacred offering
To great Wakon'da,
Giver of Corn.


During the singing the seven leaders stand together wrapped in their green
mantles. All the other dancers are grouped at a little distance back, still
talking as at first in dumb show. At the third line they stop talking, at
the fourth line they give attention to the seven leaders, at the fifth line
they join in the song. During the singing of this stanza there should be no
change in the relative positions of the two groups, but during the singing
all who sing should keep up a gentle rhythmic swaying of the body.


Now to the field we hie,
Where stands the corn so high,
Calling us thither;
Calling us thither,
First-fruits to cull and bring
Our sacred offering
To great Wakon'da,
Giver of Corn.

The seven leaders, at the beginning of the first line of the second stanza,
slowly fall into line and with deliberate rhythmic steps move toward the
"field," reaching it by the fifth line, and while singing that line they
should pick up the cornstalks and hold them, with their hands draped with
their green mantles, high to the front.

At the close of the first stanza the other group of dancers should resume a
dumb show of speaking to one another until the third line of the second
stanza, when they change their attitude and give attention; at the fourth
line they join in the song, and at the fifth move toward the "field" where
are the seven leaders. By the close of the second stanza all the dancers
should be in one group at the "field."

All the dancers stand there at the "field" a moment in silence. Then the
seven leaders sing the introduction to the following Processional Song:

Song No. 2

_Introduction_: Follow Mother Corn,
Who breathes forth life!

_Chorus_: H'A-ti-ra, H'A-ti-ra, H'A-ti-ra, A-ti-ra,
H'A-ti-ra, A-ti-ra, H'A-ti-ra, A-ti-ra,
A-ti-ra, H'A-ti-ra, A-ti-ra.


This song is retained as sung in the original Pawnee ceremony; the meaning
has already been explained.

The introduction is sung by the seven leaders, who advance in two rows,
four in the first, three in the second, and in this manner they lead the
Processional Dance. At the chorus all the other dancers fall in behind the
leaders, either in couples or singly, every one singing. All steps must be
rhythmic and in time with the music. The seven leaders move steadily, also
in time with the music, as they hold the cornstalks high, while the
followers wave their scarfs or mantles and dance happily and lightly, but
with dignity. The picture should be one of contrast as the procession takes
its way among trees and through the sunny fields, the seven moving evenly,
with the corn held high, and the joyous, fluttering group of dancers

The Life of the Corn culminates in a delight of color, movement and song.


INTRODUCTORY NOTE.--This dance is derived from a ceremony, observed among
the Indians of the North Pacific Coast, in which the spirits dwelling
beneath the ground are called to come and join those who are dancing. The
dancer who calls the spirits moves with gliding steps, the arms
outstretched, the hands beckoning upward in a gentle, enticing manner. The
grace, dignity and earnestness of this dance linger with the writer as a
beautiful memory after the lapse of many years.

_Properties_.--A green scarf for the Caller. Blue, white and rosy scarfs
for as many dancers as will personate the three Flowers that respond to the
call: Violets, Wild-roses and Daisies. A twisted rope of green to link the
dancing Flowers together in the final dance.

_Directions_.--A clear space will be required large enough for all the
dancers to move about in the final dance. Those who personate the Flowers
should be hidden from view until the time when they are to respond to the
call. In the properties enumerated above, mention is made only of scarfs.
The picturesqueness of the dance would be enhanced if the dancers wore
headdresses shaped somewhat like the flowers and made of appropriate
colored paper; blue or lilac for the Violets, with a touch of yellow; deep
pink or pale red for the Wild-roses, with a little yellow for the stamens;
white with yellow for the Daisies. The twisted rope of green paper should
be made over heavy twine, so as to be strong enough for the dancers to
grasp in the final dance. All these decorative articles should be made in
the camp.

The dancer who acts as the Caller should wear the green scarf loosely
thrown about the head and body. If the voice of this dancer is not strong
enough to be clearly heard by those who look on at a little distance, then
two other persons should stand one at each side of the open space and sing
with the dancer who is the Caller. These two extra singers should be
wrapped in green scarfs and stand quietly as interested spectators while
the dancer calls. Care should be taken to give the words of the songs with
clearness and distinctness, so that every person within hearing distance
can catch them easily.


The scene opens with the one who is to call the Flowers standing in the
center, looking about in different directions. Suddenly, as if the thought
occurred to call for companions, the following song is begun:

Song No. 1


Hither come, come to me, flowers!
Wake from your sleep.
Oh, hither come, hither come, flowers!
Hear me calling,
Wake from your sleep, O flowers!
Hark! some one comes.


With the song, movement begins. The steps taken should be gentle and
gliding, the arms outstretched as in entreaty, the hands moved as in
beckoning, not with one finger but all the fingers slowly bending toward
the open palm. The dancer should think what the action means as she glides
about the open space, and strive to carry out the picture of awakening the
sleeping flowers, of bidding them to "come hither." It is possible that
more time may be required by some dancers to produce the picture than
merely singing the song once through would give; in that case, that portion
of the song having the words "Hear me calling, Wake from your sleep, O
flowers!" can be repeated once or twice, to meet the requirements of the
dancer. The last line, "Hark! some one comes!" should be given with
dramatic action.

These words are the cue for those who are to represent the Violets to
prepare to enter from different points on the right, and to make a soft,
stirring sound before they come into view, singing the following song:

Song No. 2


Violets have come in heav'nly hue;
With fragrance sweet they bring to you
Love from the dell where they grew
Close to the earth so true.


The Violets dance with quiet steps in rhythm with the song. They slowly
advance and gather in a loose circle about the Caller, whom, as they come
near, each one lightly touches, to give "Love from the dell where they
grew." Then they retire to the edge of the open space at the right and sit
on the ground in little groups. When they are quiet and in their places,
the Caller moves toward them, then turns, stops, looks at the empty side at
the left and sings:

Song No. 1


[See page 42]

The last line gives the cue to those who represent the Wild-roses to make a
rustling sound where they are hidden on the left. They enter with light
springing steps, singing:

Song No. 3


Wild-roses come all bright and gay,
Blushing red like dawn of day;
Dancing come they, full of play,
Hiding all their thorns away.
Wild-roses come all bright and gay,
Blushing red like dawn of day,
Dancing come they, full of play.


The Wild-roses dance about gaily; they circle the quiet little clumps of
Violets that remain seated. The Wild-roses frolic around the Caller,
capering about in wild freedom but keeping their steps in exact time with
their song. Finally they pause in groups at the left.

After a moment, the Caller moves toward the rear of the open space and
while there once again sings:

Song No. 1


[See page 42]

At the close of the song the dancers who are to represent the Daisies give
a trilling shout and appear from the rear of the open space, skipping;
their leader holds the end of a long green rope, which is caught hold of by
each dancer who follows, all singing:

Song No. 4


Up from meadows free,
Coming full of glee,
Troop the Daisies white,
Dancing in the light,
All skipping blithe and gay.
Now we make a chain,
Singing as we twine
Then back into line--
Merry at play!


As the Daisies skip in the open space, the dancers are widely separated as
they hold on to the rope; at the words "Now we make a chain" the Violets,
who had risen as the Daisies entered, move toward the string of dancers;
the Wild-roses also come toward the chain and grasp the green rope. The
colors of the flowers should alternate and all the Flowers should have hold
of the rope and cling to it as to a great green stem. Then all circle
around the Caller, who is the last to grasp the stem. As all the Flowers
dance they repeat Song No. 4, beginning at the words "Troop the Daisies
white," etc.

This chain of flowers should make, as they dance, interweaving figures.
These can be left to the fancy of the dancers, but just what they are to be
must be decided upon beforehand and rehearsed; otherwise the dance will not
be successful and pleasing.

The dances for each kind of flower will require practice, for the character
of each flower should be well brought out; the gentleness of the Violets
can make a charming contrast to the waywardness of the Wild-roses and the
pliant Daisies who are at home everywhere.


INTRODUCTORY NOTE.--Among those Indian tribes that lived outside the
semi-arid sections of our country, the storm with its destructive force was
the representative of war, and thunder was a war god.

Warfare was widespread among the tribes dwelling in the Mississippi valley;
yet among these people the desirability and value of peace were recognized.
Honors won in a defensive fight gave the warrior higher rank than those
gained in wars of aggression. Rituals belonging to religious ceremonies,
and also to war rites, taught that the first duty of the warrior was to
protect the women and children, the fields and the food supply, for his
strong arm and ready courage made the tribe's only wall of defence against

These tribes had ceremonies relating to the maintenance of peace not only
within the tribe but for the purpose of forming peaceful relations with
other tribes. The clear sky was the symbol of peace, of happiness and of
prosperity, conditions the very opposite of those that attended war.

When a peace ceremony was in progress, if a storm arose it was looked upon
as an omen of disaster. At such a time, when clouds gathered, the people
joined in ceremonial songs and appeals for clear sky, the symbol of peace.

The following dramatic dance and the accompanying songs are employed on
such an occasion. The songs are taken from ceremonies used to promote

_Properties_.--Staffs, about three feet long, with small blue flags, as
many as there are dancers, the same number of blue head-bands and blue
sashes. The latter are to be worn from the right shoulder across the breast
and tied at the waist under the left arm. A drum.

_Directions_.--This dance belongs to both sexes and boys and girls should,
if possible, join in it.


All the dancers stand facing the East, in one or more rows deep, according
to the number, their staffs held in the right hand so that the flags will
hang in front of each dancer, covering the chest, as they begin the
following song:

Song No. 1

Away, away, dark clouds, away!
Leave the sky!
Go far away, dark clouds, to-day!
Leave the sky!
Stormy clouds, go far away, far away,
Stormy clouds, no longer stay!
Leave the sky!
Go far away, dark clouds, to-day!
Leave the sky!
Stormy clouds, go far way, far away!
Stormy clouds, begone!



In the first line at each "away" the dancers should look up toward the East
and move a step forward in that direction. At the line "Leave the sky!"
they should point their flags toward the East, keeping the staff out on a
level with the body, and accent it by thrusting it forward as if pointing
to the East, being careful not to change the level of the staff. At the
second "Leave the sky!" the level of the staffs must be raised to about the
chin of the dancer and the same pointing motion repeated at this level. At
the third "Leave the sky!" the staffs are raised to the level of the
dancers' eyes and the same pointing movement repeated. At the fourth "Leave
the sky!" the level of the staffs is raised to a line with the top of the
head and the pointing motions again given. At the last line, "Stormy
clouds, begone!" the staffs and flags should be raised aloft and waved with
precision to the rhythm of the song. The steps and movements of the body
should be that of backward and forward, to give a pulsating effect, all in
exact time with the music. The drum should be beaten in 4/8 time, the first
and third stroke heavier than the second and fourth. This series of
movements constitutes the Appeal to the East.

The dancers next turn to the North, repeat the song and all the movements
of staff and body in exactly the same manner.

The dancers now turn toward the West and go through the song and movements
without any variation.

They then turn toward the South and repeat song and movements as before.
This brings the First Appeal to a close.


All the dancers gather in a loose group in the center of the open space,
where they divide into two lines that must cross each other at right
angles. When this cross-figure is formed, all, as they stand, should face
the East. The staffs should be held at an angle similar to that of a baton
and then swayed to the rhythm of the following song of pleading and of hope:

Song No. 2

Come, soft skies of blue,
O'er the earth of verdant hue
Bend in peace!
Clouds by thy sunny breath all are gone,
Blue Sky!
Joy now fills our hearts anew,
Sorrows cease;
Songs of birds sing of thy peace,
Blue Sky!


As the dancers sing they should take a step sidewise to the right, then
return to the first position; then a step to the left and return, so that
the whole cross-figure has a swaying motion accentuating the rhythm of the
song, which should be sung smoothly and flowingly. When the words "Blue
Sky!" are sung the flags should be raised aloft and waved in rhythm and
then returned to the previous level. The song should be repeated several
times and the figure maintained as the singers face the North, West, South
and back to the East. Then the dancers should break into groups and, still
singing the song and dancing rhythmically, disperse to their tents.

The He-de Wa-chi


INTRODUCTORY NOTE.--For centuries the home of the Omaha tribe has been in
the region now known as the State of Nebraska, north of the city which
bears their name. There they dwelt in permanent villages, surrounded by
their garden plots of corn, beans, squashes, etc. From these villages every
year in June all the tribes except the sick and infirm went forth to follow
the buffalo herds in order to obtain their supply of meat and pelts. As
this tribal hunt was essential to the needs of the life of the people, it
was a very serious affair, initiated with religious ceremonies and
conducted under strict rules enforced by duly appointed officers. It was at
the close of this great tribal hunt, when food and clothing had been
secured, while Summer lingered and the leaves had not yet begun to fall, so
that brightness was still over the land, that this Festival of Joy took
place. Like all Indian ceremonies, the He-de Wa-chi embodied a teaching
that was for the welfare of the tribe, a teaching drawn from nature and
dramatically enacted by the people. The Omaha tribe was made up of ten
distinct groups, each one having its own name, a set of names for those
born within the group, and certain religious symbols and ceremonies
committed to its care. By tribal rites and regulations these ten distinct
groups were welded together to form the tribe, whose strength and
prosperity depended upon internal harmony and unity.

The He-de Wa-chi taught the people what this unity really stood for. The
central object of the ceremony was a tree, which was the symbol of the
tribe; its branches were as the different groups composing the tribe, the
twigs that made up the branches were as the individuals that formed the

The Omaha had special ceremonies for the preparation of the central object.
They cut a tree, left a tuft of branches at the top and painted the trunk
in alternate bands of red and black. The red bands represented day, the
black, night; the decoration as a whole stood for the continuity of life.
This pole was planted in a broad open space. As the melodious Call to the
Ceremony echoed over the land, the people gathered from their tents. Each
one of the ten groups took its respective place and all the groups formed a
wide circle about the tree. Every one, down to the little children, carried
a twig with leaves. These they held aloft as they made their rhythmic,
ceremonial approaches to the tree, and afterward danced about the sacred

It was a wonderful and a beautiful scene that took place on the prairies
years ago, when hundreds of Omahas moved to the rhythm of the sacred songs,
waving the green sprays as they danced up to the symbolic tree and circled
about it with thanksgiving and joy. It was thus they exemplified tribal
unity, wherein every one was a part of the living whole.

This ancient American ceremony should live anew with us wherever we gather
to enjoy the delights of nature in goodly company.

_Directions_.--It may be difficult to prepare a young tree for the central
pole after the manner of the Omaha; if so, a space around a single tree can
be made to serve. Bands of red and black muslin or paper should be put
about the tree trunk; these are to symbolize the days and nights enjoyed
during the camp life. The members of the camp should be divided into groups
and each group have a name and a color. Small branches should be gathered,
equal in number to those who will take part in the dance. If actual
branches are not available, wands can be used; to these fluttering
decorations of green paper should be attached, also a streamer the color of
the group. Each group should be assigned a place in the wide circle that is
to be made about the tree.

When all are ready the following Call should be sung. The Indian words are
retained, as they are easy to pronounce and fit the meaning, and are
adapted to the long echoing cadences of the Call.

Song No. 1


Zha-wa i-ba i-ba e-he,
Zha-wa i-ba i-ba ha e-he.


[Words: Zha-wa = to rejoice; i-ba = come; ha = vowel prolongation of the
syllable ba; e-he = I bid you. "I bid you come to rejoice."]

This English translation of the native words does not convey the stirring
appeal of the Omaha: "To rejoice! Come! I bid you." The stress of the music
of the Call is on "Zha-wa," to rejoice; the notes which carry the words
"e-he," "I bid you," seem to float afar as if to reach the most distant
member of the tribe with the summons. The cadence of the Call echoes
itself, as the second line is like the first, only lower in tones.

When all of the camp have gathered in response to the Call, each group must
stand in its appointed place and every member hold a decorated wand. Four
beats of the drum are now to be given; the beats must not be loud or rapid.
When the reverberations of the drum cease, absolute quiet must be
maintained, each one's wand must hang downward from his right hand, while
the following chant is given, sung by the leaders of the groups. The words
are by John B. Tabb, the music is arranged from the Omaha invocation.

Song No. 2


All that springeth from the sod,
Tendeth upward unto God;
All that cometh from the skies,
Urging it anon to rise.


This chant takes the place of the prayer sung at this point of the ceremony
by the Omaha Keepers of the Tribal Sacred Pipes. The prayer in the original
has no words, vocables only are used, for the music is what carries the
appeal to Wakon'da (God).

At the close of the chant two strokes of the drum should be given. Then the
leaders should sing the first line of the following song; all the camp
respond at the beginning of the second measure, and the song follows. This
music is the dance song of the ceremony when all the Omaha tribe made four
rhythmic advances toward the sacred tree, stopping at the close of each
advance. The song was sung four times, once for each forward movement.

Song No. 3


_Leaders_: Ev'ry one lift up the branch!

_Response by all:_ Up it goes!

_Song by all:_ Dancing, singing, we like leaves sway to and fro.
Happy leaves! Dancing leaves!
Swinging as the breezes blow,
So will we ever be
Blithe and joyous as we go.


"Hi-o!" is the call given by the leaders for the dancers to pause. When
this call is heard, all the branches must be at once lowered and every
person stand still. After a brief pause the leaders will again sing the
command, "Ev'ry one lift up the branch!" then comes the response, "Up it
goes!" The song immediately follows, all the wands held high and waving in
rhythm to the melody while the second advance is made. Each one of these
advances should be but a few steps, on account of the limitations of space.
The dancing steps, the rhythmic movements of the body and the swaying wands
should give an undulating line suggestive of waving branches. The available
space on the grounds should be calculated so as to permit the four
approaches accompanied by the dance-song to reach a point near the tree,
yet far enough to permit the forming of two circles of dancers around its
base. At this point the company should divide into two parts, one part to
form an inner circle and the other to form an outer circle. These two
circles are now to dance around the tree, one to go from right to left, the
other from left to right. At this time the leaders tie their wands to the
trunk of the tree, but all the others retain their wands while they dance
in these concentric circles. All should sing the dance-song, keeping time
with the feet and waving the wands to the rhythm of the music. As the dance
goes on, the time can be accelerated and the circles become wider and
narrower, but in all these movements the rhythm of song and dance must
never be broken--for the rhythm stands for the binding force of a common,
social and loving life.

Song No. 4



Dance the leaves in sunlight,
Dance the leaves in dark night,
Leaves ever, ever dance on the tree,
The Tree!



High we lift the green branch,
Dance and wave our green branch,
Each one is a green branch of the tree,
The Tree!


Now we all return them,
Bind them to the tree stem,
While we sing the glad word, Unity!
O Tree!


Strong our hearts in daylight,
Strong our hearts in still night,
Thus the He-de Wa-chi bids us be,
O Tree!

This dance-song can be repeated as often as desired. When at last the
leaders wish it to stop they must give the call, "Hi-o!" as they did for
the pause in the Dance of Approach to the Tree.

When this signal is given, the members should toss their wands at the foot
of the tree from the place where they had stopped dancing.

In the ancient Omaha ceremony the people had the vast expanse of the
prairie at their disposal, yet each tribal group kept its appointed place,
not only during the dance, wherein they made four approaches toward the
sacred tree, but when all the groups formed into two great circles the
tribal order of their relative positions was still preserved. The two
circles were made up according to sex. The women and girls danced in one
direction next to the pole; the men and boys formed the outer circle and
danced in the opposite direction. This dance was the occasion of much
hilarity and fun. Old and young danced with vigor, and great was the
delight of the tribe as it spun around the emblematic tree, carrying
branches. At the close of the dance all tossed the branches at the foot of
the pole, leaving a mound of green on the widespreading plain.

If boys and girls take part, as they should, in this ceremony, let the
girls form the inner circle and the boys the outer circle as they dance
about the tree in true Omaha fashion.

In real Indian life every vocation has its accompaniment of song, no matter
how homely may be the employment. So, keeping faith with that ancient
American custom, let the camp be put in order after the ceremony while all
sing the following song, which may be called the Clearing Up:

Song No. 5


Now is our dancing ended,
Light are our hearts as our footsteps
Turn at our leaders' bidding.
Safely we gather together
Branches that served our playtime,
Setting our camp all in order
Ere to our tents we betake us.]

This scene, in which all should take part, can be made merry as well as




INTRODUCTION.--All the games here presented have been played in our land
for untold generations, while traces of the articles used for them have
been found in the oldest remains on this continent. According to Dr.
Stewart Culin, the well-known authority on Indian and other games, "There
is no evidence that these games were imported into America at any time
either before or after the conquest. On the other hand they appear to be
the direct and natural outgrowth of aboriginal institutions in America."
Dr. Culin calls attention to the reference to games in the myths of the
various tribes. Among those of the Pueblo people mention is made of the
divine Twins who live in the east and the west, rule the day and the night,
the Summer and the Winter, "Always contending they are the original patrons
of play and their games are the games now played by men." (Bureau of
American Ethnology, Vol. 24, p. 32.) It would lead too far afield to follow
the interesting relation between ceremonials and games, a relation that is
not peculiar to the culture found on the American Continent but which
obtains the world around. The environment of man in general outline is much
the same everywhere; the sun ever rises in the east and sets in the west;
day and night always follow each other; the winds play gently or rend with
force; the rains descend in showers or fall in floods; flowers and trees
spring up, come to maturity and then die. Therefore, when man has
questioned Nature as to the why and the wherefore of life, similar answers
have come from all parts of the earth; so it happens that man's games,
which often sportively reflect his serious thoughts, show a strange

Indian games that depend upon chance, according to Dr. Culin, may be
divided "into those in which the hazard depends upon the random fall of
certain implements employed, like dice, and those in which it depends upon
the guess or choice of the player; one is objective, the other subjective."
Games of the first or objective class are generally played in silence,
while those of the second or subjective class, called guessing games, are
accompanied by singing. (Ibid., p. 44.)

In a game where the two sides contest, as in a ball game, the sides were
frequently played by two different tribes or by two villages in the same
tribe. In such cases the players often went through a course of training in
order to prepare them for the contest. Bathing, exercise and diet had to be
followed according to prescribed custom. Among the Cherokee the partaking
of rabbit was forbidden, because the animal is "timid, easily alarmed and
liable to lose its wits"; so if the player ate of this dish, he might
become infected with like characteristics. Mystic rites were sometimes
performed to prepare the player so that he would be successful. (Ibid.,
p. 575.)

According to the Indian belief, the pleasure of games was not restricted to
mankind but was enjoyed by birds and animals. The following story from the
Cherokee is told by Mr. James Mooney and quoted by Dr. Culin (Ibid., pp.
578, 579):

"The animals once challenged the birds to a great ball play. The wager was
accepted, the preliminaries were arranged, and at last the contestants
assembled at the appointed spot--the animals on the ground, while the birds
took position in the tree-tops to await the throwing up of the ball. On the
side of the animals were the bear, whose ponderous weight bore down all
opposition; the deer, who excelled all others in running; and the terrapin,
who was invulnerable to the stoutest blows. On the side of the birds were
the eagle, the hawk and the great Tlaniwa--all noted for their
swiftness and power of flight. While the latter were preening their
feathers and watching every motion of their adversaries below, they noticed
two small creatures, hardly larger than mice, climbing up the tree on which
was perched the leader of the birds. Finally they reached the top and
humbly asked the captain to be allowed to join in the game. The captain
looked at them a moment, and, seeing that they were four-footed, asked them
why they did not go to the animals where they properly belonged. The little
things explained that they had done so, but had been laughed at and
rejected on account of their diminutive size. On hearing their story the
bird captain was disposed to take pity on them, but there was one serious
difficulty in the way--how could they join the birds when they had no
wings? The eagle, the hawk and the rest now crowded around, and after some
discussion it was decided to try and make wings for the little fellows. But
how to do it! All at once, by a happy inspiration, one bethought himself of
the drum which was to be used in the dance. The head was made of ground-hog
leather, and perhaps a corner could be cut off and utilized for wings. No
sooner suggested than done. Two pieces of leather taken from the drumhead
were cut into shape and attached to the legs of one of the small animals,
and thus originated the bat. The ball was now tossed up and the bat was
told to catch it, and his expertness in dodging and circling about, keeping
the ball constantly in motion and never allowing it to fall to the ground,
soon convinced the birds that they had gained a most valuable ally. They
next turned their attention to the other little creature; and now behold a
worse difficulty! All their leather had been used in making wings for the
bat and there was no time to send for more. In this dilemma it was
suggested that perhaps wings might be made by stretching out the skin of
the animal itself. So two large birds seized him from opposite sides with
their strong bills, and by tugging and pulling at his fur for several
minutes succeeded in stretching the skin between the fore and hind feet
until at last the thing was done, and there was the flying squirrel. Then
the bird captain, to try him, threw up the ball, when the flying squirrel,
with a graceful bound, sprang off the limb and, catching it in his teeth,
carried it through the air to another tree-top a hundred feet away.

"When all was ready the game began, but at the very outset the flying
squirrel caught the ball and carried it up a tree, then threw it to the
birds, who kept it in the air for some time, when it dropped; but just
before it reached the ground the bat seized it, and by his dodging and
doubling kept it out of the way of even the swiftest of the animals until
he finally threw it in at the goal, and thus won the victory for the

Hazard Games

INTRODUCTORY NOTE.--The objects which are thrown or tossed in games of
hazard Dr. Culin for convenience has designated as "dice" and he calls the
games "dice games." (Ibid., pp. 44, 45.) He found these games among one
hundred and thirty tribes belonging to thirty different linguistic stocks.
Throughout this wide distribution the "dice" are not only of different
forms but are made from a variety of materials: split-cane; wooden or bone
staves or blocks; pottery; beaver or muskrat teeth; walnut shells;
persimmon, peach or plum stones. All the "dice" of whatever kind have the
two sides different in color, in marking, or in both. Those of the smaller
type are tossed in a basket or bowl. Those that are like long sticks,
similar to arrow shafts, from which they are primarily derived, were thrown
by hand. Myths of the Pueblo tribes speak of the game, in which "dice"
shaped like a shaft were used, as being played by the War Gods. The
split-cane "dice" were "sacrificed" on the altar sacred to the Gods of War.
In this connection it is interesting to find evidence that the "dice game"
of hazard was associated with the thought of war among tribes very
different, both in language and customs, from the Pueblo Indians. Among the
tribes living on the prairies the word used to indicate a "point" made in a
"dice game" is derived from the same root as the word used to indicate an
honor won on the field of battle.

Two examples of the class of games called "dice games" are here given: the
first a Pueblo game played almost exclusively by men; the second a game
found among the Omaha and kindred tribes and almost exclusively played by



_Properties_.--Three wooden billets; a flat stone about six inches in
diameter or square; forty stones about as "big as a fist" or like pieces of
wood; as many sticks for markers as there are players; counters to score
the game.

_Directions_.--The three billets, called pa-tol sticks, are made four and a
half inches long, one inch wide and half an inch in thickness; it is
important that the wood from which they are made be firm and hard. Two of
the billets are plain on one side, on the other side a diagonal line is
incised from the left-hand upper corner to a point about two inches below
the right-hand upper corner; another diagonal line is incised from the
right-hand lower corner to about two inches above the left-hand lower
corner. The third pa-tol stick has the same design on one side, and on the
other side the design is repeated and an additional diagonal line incised
from the right-hand upper corner to the left-hand lower corner. It would be
well to blacken all these incised lines in order that the designs can be
readily seen during the playing of the game.


A circle, called the Pa-tol House, about three or four feet in diameter, is
made by setting forty stones "about the size of a fist" so as to form the
circumference. Between every tenth and eleventh stone there must be an
opening of four or five inches. These openings must face the north, east,
south and west; they are spoken of as "rivers." The flat stone is placed in
the middle of the circle.

Each player has a marker, a small stick or twig, which is called his
"horse." As many can take part in the game as conveniently can seat
themselves around the pa-tol house.

The following description of the game is given by Dr. Charles F. Lummis and
quoted by Dr. Culin (Ibid., pp. 191, 192): "When the players have seated
themselves, the first takes the pa-tol sticks tightly in his right hand,
lifts them about as high as his chin and, bringing them down with a smart
vertical thrust as if to harpoon the center stone, lets go of them when
they are within some six inches of it. The three sticks strike the stone as
one, hitting on their ends squarely, and, rebounding several inches, fall
back into the circle. The manner in which they fall decides the
denomination of the throw, and the different values are shown in the
diagram. Although at first flush this might seem to make it a game of
chance, nothing could be farther from the truth.... An expert pa-tol player
will throw the number he desires with almost unfailing certainty by his
arrangement of the sticks in his hand and the manner and force with which
he strikes them down. It is a dexterity which any one may acquire by
sufficient practice, and only thus. The five throw is deemed very much the
hardest of all, and I have certainly found it so. [See diagram.]

"According to the number of his throw the player moves his marker an equal
number of stones ahead on the circle, using one of the rivers as a starting
point. If the throw is five, for instance, he lays his horse between the
fourth and fifth stones and hands the pa-tol sticks to the next man. If his
throw be ten, however, as the first man's throw is very certain to be, it
lands his horse in the second river, and he has another throw. The second
man may make his starting point the same or another river, and may elect to
run his horse around the circle in the same direction that the first is
going or in the opposite. If in the same direction, he will do his best to
make a throw which will bring his horse into the same notch as that of the
first man, in which case the first man is killed and has to take his horse
back to the starting point, to try over again when he gets another turn. In
case the second man starts in the opposite direction--which he will not do
unless an expert player--he has to calculate with a good deal of skill for
the meeting, to kill and to avoid being killed by the first player. When he
starts in the same direction he is behind and runs no chance of being
killed, while he has just as good a chance to kill. But if, even then, a
high throw carries him ahead of the first man--for jumping does not count
either way, the only killing being when two horses come in the same
notch--his rear is in danger, and he will try to run on out of the way of
his pursuer as fast as possible. The more players the more complicated the
game, for each horse is threatened alike by foes that chase from behind and
charge from before, and the most skilful player is liable to be sent back
to the starting point several times before the game is finished, which is
as soon as one horse has made the complete circuit. Sometimes the players,
when very young or unskilled, agree there shall be no killing; but unless
there is an explicit arrangement to that effect, killing is understood, and
it adds greatly to the interest of the game."



This game belongs to the second and non-ceremonial class of the games of
hazard and is generally played by women. The Omaha type is here given, but
it is similar to the game as played by kindred tribes.

_Properties_.--Five plum stones; a basket or wooden bowl; one hundred
counters. The Omaha used stalks of the blue joint grass as counters, but
small twigs or sticks will serve.

The plum stones should be carefully cleaned and dried. Two of the stones
are burned black on both sides with a hot iron; on one side of each of
these stones a crescent is marked, and between the lines of the figure the
black is carefully scraped so as to leave a clear design of a new moon on a
background of black. On the other side of these two stones a star, four or
five pointed, is drawn and all the black within the lines is scraped off,
leaving a brown star on a background of black. The other three stones are
each burned black all over on one side; the other side is left the natural
color of the stones. These stones can be prepared in camp, but the basket
or wooden bowl will probably have to be furnished from outside.

_Directions_.--Two players to one basket or bowl. The game is generally one
hundred points.

The two players sit opposite and have the basket or bowl between them, with
the five plum stones lying in the bottom. The one hundred counters are
within reach at one side. As points are made, the winner takes a
corresponding number of counters from the general pile and lays them beside
her on the side opposite to the general pile; when this is exhausted, then
the winner takes her counters from the winnings of her opponent. Whoever
wins all of the one hundred points has the game.

Lots should be drawn to decide who shall have the first play. The one who
wins the first play takes the bowl or basket by the rim with both hands and
gives it a toss sufficient to throw up all the stones, but not violent
enough to make them fall outside the bowl or basket; such a throw would not
count. If the throw is not such as to move all the stones, make them turn
and all move about within the bowl, that throw will not count.

The following are the combinations that count, that is, make points:

Two moons and three whites (natural color) = 10 points.

Two stars and three blacks = 10 points.

One moon, one star and three whites (natural color) = 1 point.

One moon, one star and three blacks = 1 point.

No other combinations count anything in the game. As will be seen, there
are a number which cannot be counted. If one tosses the bowl and the stones
fall in such manner as to make a combination that does not count, there is
no forfeit; the player merely fails to score any points. The player who
wins a point, or points, keeps on tossing the bowl until she fails to make
a point. She must then let her opponent toss the bowl, who will keep
tossing the bowl as long as she can win a point. There are players among
the Indian women who are very skilful and are able to make the stones fall
frequently in the combinations that win ten points.

Guessing Games

Introductory Note.--Games of the "subjective" class, designated as guessing
games by Dr. Culin, were generally accompanied by singing. There is a great
variety in the games of this class, and five examples drawn from different
sections of the country are here presented.

Indian games of this character do not always depend so much on chance as on
the quickness of vision and skilful manipulation by the players. In games
of this class the Indians never make random motions, all their movements,
whether of the body, the feet, the hands or arms, being always in strict
accord with the accompanying song, while the drama implied in the game is
acted out, at the same time, more or less clearly. In these games the
Indian players seem to be impelled by a common rhythmic and dramatic
impulse, making a unity that enhances the interest and pleasure excited by
the game.



Introductory Note.--This was a favorite game among the natives of the
Northeastern States; its "strange whimsies" were first mentioned by William
Wood in his book, "New England Prospect," published in London, 1634. It is


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