Shoshoni Dog




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by Ernest Thompson Seton

Shoshoni Dog Dance

The following are the needed properties: A low stool or stand, about 1 foot high; a dish or flat tray; something to serve as a dog's head, either a dog's skull, or a wooden head without ears, eyes or nose, but holes where these are to be, and four holes on the crown for feathers (we have used a baker's roll for this); a body sometimes made of wood with four legs, a peg for the neck and a hole for the tail (we have used for this a loaf of bread on four clothes pegs), a more or less hairy tail, 2 wads of black cotton or wool for eyes, 1 wad of black cotton for nose, 2 ears made of rubber or leather, with a sharp point to stick in the head, and for which holes are prepared at the right place. Last, some quill feathers, some candies and of course atom-tom. 

They enter in procession each dancer carrying his property up high in both hands, keeping the following order: Tom-tom, stool, tray, head, body, 2 eyes, nose, 2 ears, tail.

They enter to march time, and go once around with high knee step and pointed toe. All stand while the stool is placed in the middle, the dog's body on the stool, the tray in front of it, and last the dog's head on the body. Then at a signal all but the leader sit. He says to the onlookers:

"We are hereto dance the dog dance in honor of our dear dog who has crossed the Great Divide."

The one with the eyes comes forward, kneels before the head, and addresses it thus:

"Dear dog, when you were with us in the teepee, you were our faithful watchman, no foe could get near us without your sharp eyes discovering them. How I wish I could give you back those eyes (puts the black wads in the sockets and some sweets on the tray), and I will dance and feast in your honor tonight."

Then bent forward slightly with hands like paws, or one held behind for a tail, he dances around to the tom-tom music, while all the rest keep up the yapping chorus, till he again reaches his place, then with face straight up, he howls a long dog's howl, turns three times around, and sits down.

Then the nose-bearer comes forward, and says:

"Dear dog, whenever we went a-hunting, it was your sharp nose that followed the game, and made the chase a success. How I wish I could give you back that nose (puts in the black wad, and some sweets on the tray), and I will dance and feast in your honor tonight."

He dances like the first, but varies it in detail.

Then in like manner the ear-bearer praises the ears that heard the approach of every danger during the night, and puts the ears in with similar performance.

Then the tail bearer says

"Dear old dog, when you were with us, you were our playmate. You never were cross with us. You always met us with a joyful wag of your tail. How I wish I could give you back that dear tail (sticks in the tail, and adds candies to the tray), and I will dance and sing in your honor tonight." Dances as before.

Each of the others recalls some good thing the dog did; he found the papoose lost in the woods, or he killed the rattler that came in the lodge, he cleaned up the scraps so the camp was not bothered with flies, he warned of approaching enemies, he rescued the child from drowning, etc., etc., as much as may be needed. And adds "I stick a feather in your crown and dance and feast in your honor tonight."

Then the leader takes it up. Kneeling before the reconstructed dog, he says

"Yes, dog, you did all of this, you warned us of the enemy coming, you made the hunting a success, you saved the papoose from drowning, you kept us from a plague of flies, and first, last and all the time you were our true end trusty friend, and all you asked in return was a bite to eat, and a place to lie down on. And when at last we have crossed the Great Divide, we hope we shall there find awaiting us our old friend the dog, so we can live our lives together again in that Happy Hunting Ground, where the white man, the smallpox and the mosquito are unknown. Dog we feast in your honor." He makes a flat handed salaam to the dog, at the same time utters a long howl.

Now the tray is handed around, each dancer gets a share. Before eating, all together, say

"Dog, in your honor."

Then all bow forward as they sit, and with both hands held out at full arm's length towards the dog, the left hand holding the candies, the right flat and palm forward, they utter a long howl, at the same time sweeping the right hand down and to the right in a profound salaam.

After eating the candies they repeat this salaam with both hands, and a long howl, then the leader takes the stand, etc., and the dog without dismounting it, and all silently go around with the high step and out.

The Birch Bark Roll






Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Storm Cloud ] Lone Scout ] [ Shoshoni Dog ] Caribou Dance ] Animal Dance ] Hopi Corn ] Spring Dance ] Fall Dance ] Snake Dance ] Courtship Eagles ] Peace Pipe ] War Dance ] Refference ]

Parent- Level Topic Links:
Native Skills ] Totem Poles ] Indian Sign Language ] Indian Ceremonies ] Indian Dance ] Indian Songs ] Birch Bark Dances ] Birch Bark Songs ] Birch Bark Plays ] Indian Games for Boys ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.