Deer Dance of the Navahos




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Dance of the Mudheads at Zuni
Deer Dance of the Navahos
Deer Dance of San Juan
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Deer Dance of the Navahos

This is an original dance, suggested by the HUNTING SONG (Dinni-e Sin), recorded by Natalie Curtis in her Indians' Book, p. 3 69.

"All animals of the chase are the herds of Hastyeyalti, God of Sunrise. He is god of game, and he made the hunting songs and gave them to the Navahos. In the old days, before they were shepherds, the Navahos lived by hunting. The Navaho hunter sits quite still and chants a song, and the game comes straight to him. When the animal is near enough, the hunter shoots him through the heart. The Navahos say that the deer like the song of the hunter, and come from all directions to hear it . . . . This can be readily believed, for the Indian can be absolutely immovable. The measured chant attracts the animals, who, always curious, first come to find out what the sound is, and are then almost hypnotised, as it were, by the monotony and rhythm of the chanting . . . . Pueblo Indians say that before they start on the hunt, they sing, bending every thought on prayerful wish for success. While they sing, the distant deer gather in council, and choose to whom each will fall. To those who have been most devout in singing will the animals go. This idea is held by the Navahos also, as is shown in this song. Indians believe in man's power to draw to himself or to bring about that upon which he fixes his mind in song and prayer. .

"In this song, the hunter likens himself to the beautiful blackbird loved by the deer. The Navahos say that this bird alights on the animals, and sometimes tries to make its nest between the horns. The refrain of the song tells of the coming of the deer-how he makes a trail from the top of Black Mountain down through the fair meadows, how he comes through the dewdrops and the pollen of the flowers, and then how, startled at sight of the hunter, he stamps and turns to run. But the man kills him, and will kill yet many another, for he is lucky and blessed in hunting. The Navahos say that the male deer always starts with the left foreleg, the female with the right.

"This is an ancient song made by the god Hastyeyalti:

"Hunting Song

"Comes the deer to my singing, Comes the deer to my song, Comes the deer to my singing.

"He, the blackbird, he am I,

Bird beloved of the wild deer.

Comes the deer to my singing.

"From the Mountain Black,

From the summit,

Down the trail, coming, coming now,

Comes the deer to my singing.

"Through the blossoms,

Through the flowers, coming, coming now,

Comes the deer to my singing.

"Through the flower dewdrops, Coming, coming now,

Comes the deer to my singing.

"Through the pollen, flower pollen, Coming, coming now,

Comes the deer to my singing.

"Starting with his left forefoot,

Stamping, turns the frightened deer,

Comes the deer to my singing.

"Quarry mine, blessed am I

In the luck of the chase.

Comes the deer to my singing.

"Comes the deer to my singing, Comes the deer to my song,

Comes the deer to my singing."

The Dance

This may be a duo or a group dance. I shall describe it as done by a group of four.

(a) Introduction

(c) With same step, done in place, facing left in a straight line,

holding bows down at sides 2 rheas.

(d) Face front, and continue same step in place, holding bows in front

Face right, and continue step in place, bows down at

side z meas.

Face front, and with feet still, both hands upraised to Great Spirit, sing

z meas.

q. meas.

The hunter who was the first to enter, trots to front left corner, and there continues to mark time

(h) The hunter who was the last to enter, does the same to the front right corner

The second and third hunters make for the back left and back right corners respectively, both going at the same time z meas.

(j) The hunters sit each in his corner, bow laid across his lap, arms

folded on his breast, and sing S meas.

(It) Enter q. deer, using step No. zo. They wear each a headdress

of yucca stems from temple to temple, with antlers shooting

up from the middle of each. They have a cane in either hand,

used as the forefeet. They cautiously make one round of the

circle 9 meas.

The hunters continue the singing. The deer stand in listening

attitude, turning heads from side to side 4 meas.

(m) The deer turn about slowly, so each faces a hunter. The

hunters, still singing, rise on one knee, and aim with their

bows 2 meas.

The deer approach, each his own hunter, until they are quite close, face to face

(o) With sneak step, each hunter surrounds his deer, the latter turning so as to always face the hunter, hypnotized 3 meas.

(p) All stand still, each pair facing. The hunter lets fly his arrow

(imaginary). The deer fall to the ground 2 meas.

The hunters raise both hands to the Great Spirit, singing 2 meas.

(r) With step-drag-close (No. i) ,each hunter surrounds his

deer 2 meas.

(s) With Sioux hop-step (No. 26), each hunter exits at his own

corner 2 meas.

r meas.

r meas.

z meas.

(From this point, the hunters should chant the song.)

Enter, from right, with back-trot step 4 hunters, each carry

ing a bow and arrow high in left hand. For this back-trot

step, the left foot is raised very little at the back and takes but

one count; the right is raised much higher and held for z

counts q. meas.


z meas.


See Also:

Deer Dance of San Juan

Rhythm of the Redman






Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Arrow Dance of the Navaho ] Basket Dance of Cochiti ] Basket Dance of Woodcraft ] Bow & Arrow Dance of Jemez ] Bow & Arrow Dance Woodcraft ] Comanche Dance of Woodcraft ] Comanche Dance of Zuni ] 2nd Comanche Dance of Zunis ] Corn Grinding Dance Woodcraft ] Corn Grinding Song of Zuni ] Coyote Dance of Woodcraft ] Dance of the Mudheads at Zuni ] [ Deer Dance of the Navahos ] Deer Dance of San Juan ] Dog Dance of San Juan ] Dog Dance of Woodcraft ] Doll Dance ] Eagle Dance of Tesuque ] Eagle Dance of Woodcraft ] Green Corn of Santo Domingo ] Harvest Dance of Zuni ] Hoop Dance of Taos ] Hoop Dance of Woodcraft ] Hopi Snake Dance ] Mountain Chant of the Navaho ] Pipe Dance of San Juan ] Rain Dance of Zuni ] Yei-Be-Chi ]

Parent- Level Topic Links:
Introduction ] Why Dance? ] Fundamental Steps ] List of Dances ] List of Illustrations ] Songs According to Tribes ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.