War Dance




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by Ernest Thompson Seton

Each brave selects a squaw for this. Ten to thirty couples take part. They sit in a large circle alternately brave and squaw. In the center is a block with a scalp on it. Each Squaw has a club by her side.

Squaws begin to sing the Cuna Bird Dance Song, guided by Medicine-woman and drum. At length the song stops.

Squaws begin nudging the braves and pointing to the scalp-block. New music by the Medicine-woman begins (The Moccasin Song). The braves jump up, dance around once with heads high in air almost held backward and not crouching at all. (They carry no clubs yet.)

After going once around, each is back again near his squaw and she holds out to him the war-club and utters the little squaw-yelp. Each brave takes his club and now begins the crouch dance. Going three times around and each time crouching lower while the squaws stand in a circle, arms down tight to side but bodies swaying in time to music. On the fourth round all are crouching very low and moving sideways, facing inwards.

The music suddenly changes and all do the slow sneak toward the center with much pantomime and keeping right foot advanced always. The squaws watch eagerly and silently leaning forward shading their eyes with one hand. All the braves strike the scalp-block together, utter the loud war whoop and stand for a moment with hands and weapons raised high, then in time to the fast drum, dance quickly erect with high steps and high head to the squaws who utter the squaw-yelp for welcome and all sit down as before.

The squaws begin the singing again, repeat the whole scene, but this time the chief falls when the block is struck and is left lying there when the other braves retire.

His squaw stands up and says; "Where is my chief who led you to battle. Why has he not come back to me?"

All look and whisper, the squaws get up to seek. At once they find him and kneeling about him with clasped hands, break forth in the squaw lament for the dead, which is a high pitched quavering wail. The warriors lift him up and slowly carry him off the scene out of sight followed by the squaws who with head bent sing:

(Air "Bark Canoe")

"Our chief our warrior true
Is lost to all, to me and you
Dire fall our vengeance due
On those who slew our warrior true."

Repeat it many times; as they disappear the music dies away fainter and fainter.

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.