Topsanah District

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Native American dancing is one of many ways to get involved in the Order. There are many types of Native dancing that you can become involved in. All of theses types are accepted by the Order and continually have competitions in the various types. Though dancing can get expensive, it is fun and exhilarating. For more information, please contact the Third Vice Chief.


The most obvious items in the fancy dance outfit are great amounts of loom beaded sets of suspenders, belt cuffs, headband, armbands. The designs are usually matching in all items and of a rainbow feather or geometric design. Beaded medallions are on the forehead and bustles are also quite common. Occasionally a breastplate will be used in place of the beaded suspenders or in conjunction with them.

The other trademark for fancy dancers is the use of large feather bustles. Currently most bustles are color-coordinated with the beadwork by using large amounts of feather hackles dyed the appropriate colors.

Small matching hackle bustles are sometimes worn as armbands. Hanging beneath the bottom bustle are a pair of trailers, usually with some ribbon work, made from navy blue, black or red wool.

Moccasins are Cheyenne style rawhide sole and may be partially or fully beaded. Sheep bells mounted on leather are worn just below the knee and below the bells about one or two inches are worn angora anklets. The apron pieces (two) are usually navy blue, black or red wool or trade cloth. Decoration may be floral beadwork, ribbon work, or medallions. The apron is usually trimmed with ribbon or fringe. The side drops may be loom beaded strips or finger woven yarn. chokers may consist of silk scarves, beaded strips or bone hair pipes. Necklaces with medallion drops are also seen. A standard porky/deer-tail roach with two feathers attached to a rocker assembly tops the head, often with decoratively trimmed side feathers. Each dancer carries either a loose or flat fan and often a tubular whistle. Ribbon shirts are becoming more common, as are matching cape and aprons.

The dance style is of two types: a basic simple step while dancing around the drum and a "contest" step with fast and intricate footwork combined with a spinning up and down movement of the body.

Grass Dance

The Grass dance is a very popular style of dance today.Originally done as a warrior society dance, it has evolved over the years. It has further evolved into a highly-competitive form of Northern dancing.

Grass Dancing always stands out by virtue of two things: his dancing style and his outfit. His dancing has been described often by these words:" gutsy, swinging, slick, old-time," etc. His outfit stands out by virtue of the almost complete absence of feathers, for aside from the roach feather, there are no bustles of any kind to be seen. The outfit consists of shirt and pants, with beaded or otherwise decorated belt and side tabs, armbands, cuffs, and front and back apron, with matched headband and moccasins, if available. Ribbons and fringe are the only mobile parts of his outfit, other than the roach feather. In other words, the outfit is made to conform to the style of dancing.

Some believe that Grass Dancing came from young boys tying grass on their outfits. Before a dance could be held on the prairie the grass had to be stomped down. This is where many of the movements are believed to com e from.  Afterwards the dancers would tie the grass to their outfit. Many believe that the Omaha tribe originated the dance in their warrior societies.

The name "Grass Dance" comes from the custom of some tribes wearing braided grass in their belts.The unique parts of the northern outfit are the shirt, trousers, and aprons, to which yarn fringe, sequins, and beaded rosettes other designs are attached. The outfit makers are fond of using playing card designs-hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds. Hearts and rosettes are the most common. White fringe is preferred, however, gold, silver, and other light color fringe is also used.

Bells are worn around the ankle. Mostly plains hard-sole, or woodland soft-sole moccasins, and sneakers are worn.The apron is probably the, most striking part. The front apron (or breech cloth) is decorated with beadwork, ribbon work, or a combination. The back apron has several colors of ribbons sewn in V-shapes. The ends hang loose for two to three feet. Ribbons also hand from the center .Belts are usually fully beaded. A "holster" or drop is worn on each side of the belt and reaches to shin level.

They are fully or partially beaded. Ideally, all of the beadwork matches. It may be floral, geometric, a combination of both. Characteristic of the outfit are the large, fully beaded cuffs or gauntlets, arm bands, chokers, occasional loop necklaces or breastplates, beaded collars and ties, and colorful scarves. The real prize is the beaded harness which reaches from the shoulders to below the knees. The two strips are usually connected by a large piece of beadwork which forms and hence the name "H-harness." Tassels or ribbons hang from the end of the harness.

The perfect headdress is the porcupine hair roach which is attached to a head harness. It is decorated with rosettes, hearts, etc., and long drop stripped with fluffs, or drops made from chains or cafe curtain rings. Dancers carry fans, eagle-bone or carved 'screen" whistles (some are made from metal tubes), mirror boards, and dance hoops of various sizes.

Straight Dance

The Straight Dance from Oklahoma is a formal, tailored, prestigious form of Southern dance clothes. The overall effect is of reassuring solidity, with everything closely matched and coordinated. It looks as if it is planned all at one time.

There are about several articles in the standard set. The iteThe Straight Dance from Oklahoma is a formal, tailored, prestigious form of Southern dance clothes. The overall effect is of reassuring solidity, with everything closely matched and coordinated. It looks as if it is planned all at one timems that should match are arranged as sets, and everything should be closely coordinated.The Garters are finger woven. The side tabs match, and hang from hip to mid-calf. The better sets have beads woven into the fabric.

Osage, Sac and Fox, or Ponca ribbon work runs down each side of the aprons, the leggins, and three bars of it cross the dragger. The aprons, leggins, trailer, and otter dragger or drop are all made of heavy wool, usually dark blue. Red wool is usually reserved for the eldest son. One, two, or three ribbons bind the raw edges not covered by the main ribbon work, and the edges are ornamented with white edge beading. Rainbow selvage edges mark the better sets made from trade cloth. Ribbonwork vests are becoming popular also.

Kiowa and Comanche usually were tab leggins. These are usually made of white or natural leather, but are also made of canvas. At both knees, two tabs hang from the leggins. These are usually backed with red or blue wool. From the bottom of the tabs hang horsehair or twisted fringe. The tabs are also decorated with lanes of lazy stitch beadwork and edge beading. The Kiowa tabs are generally triangular, with the end coming to a point. The Comanche are generally squared off at the end. Below the tabs going down the leggins are many strands of twisted leather fringe.

The belt is a strip of loom beadwork, 4 to 4 1/2 inches wide, and is mounded on heavy leather, or is sometimes made of silver conchos. Silver spots stud the edges of the leather.The dancer's otter strip, it as about 2 inches wide, and is attached with one or two beaded rosettes or silver conchos and hangs down the back. Some dancers also have all concho draggers.

The spreader, arm bands, and slide are made of German sliver, in stamped, overlay, or cutout patterns. One feather is usually put in the spreader.The beadwork set is done in peyote or Comanche beadwork. The fan is usually a flat or loose fan. The otter feathers are also attached with rosettes or conchos, and may be worn with or without an otter strip. The bandoliers match as to materials and colors, but may have from one to three strands or sometimes even four or more. They are worn crisscross on the body.

The ribbon shirt is made of satin, brocade, or floral print material, with contrasting ribbon. The neckerchief, scarves, and arm band ribbons match the ribbon in the shirt. Scarves are attached to the bandoliers at the shoulder blades.The roach is made of porcupine hair, and either white or red deer hair. A more prized roach is made of Turkey Beard hair. The headband is usually a white scarf. Dancers sometimes carry a pouch of white deerskin, with beaded decoration or other types of bags.Bells may be either chrome or brass, and are mounted on a long leather strip. The moccasins are usually Southern Cheyenne, and should be at least partially beaded. A Straight dancer will carry either a mirror board or a tail stick in their right hand. The tail stick originated as the badge of office of a Tail Dancer in a Hethuska Society. Today the tail stick is carried by many dancers in and out of the Hethuska dance. A tail stick is usually given to a Straight dancer by another experienced dancer. A mirror board is a substitute for the tail stick, and may be carried by any dancer.

There are a lot of clothes to wear in the outfit, and accordingly the dance is slow and proud. The art of Straight dancing is in the little, sometimes unnoticed things, both in the movement and the outfit. Smoothness, precision with the song, a knowledge of dance etiquette, and a powerful sense of pride mark the outstanding straight dancer


A popular, Northern style of dress and dance the traditional style, has evolved from the well known "old time Sioux" style of the early reservation period through the 1940's. Although a clear distinction exists, one can see an obvious connection to the old-time Sioux Outfit, with the dancer drawing from this earlier style various elements which he either adheres to or uses as a basis for his own interpretation. Therefore this form of dancing that has evolved over the years, is the oldest form of Native American dancing.

What follows is a brief description of the major articles that comprise the modern "traditional" dance outfit. It must be stressed that this is only a brief description; that variations do exist from area to area and from tribe to tribe; and that careful observation and research be undertaken before starting to construct this type outfit.

On his head the traditional dancer wears a roach. The longer porcupine hair is preferred because of it's movement. The roach spreader can be made of bone, metal, rawhide or leather. It can be carved, beaded, painted, etc. or just left plain. The roach feathers are inserted in sockets on the spreader, with two roach feathers being the usual number. The rocker spreader, popular with fancy dancers, is rarely seen. Occasionally one will see dancers wearing beaded headbands, often decorated with medallions or drops. Quilled wheels can also be worn in the hair.

Most dancers wear a shirt, either with or without ribbon decoration. Over the shirt is worn a breastplate that usually extends below the waist. Around the neck is a choker either of hair pipes and beads or a beaded strip. Many dancers also wear two bandoliers of hair pipes and beads or a 3 to 5 inch strip or otter or other fur decorated with mirrors or a combination of both. A vest can be worn either of cloth or leather. Some are beaded.

Arm bands and cuffs can be either beaded or metal or a combination of the two such as beaded cuffs with metal arm bands. The breech cloth or aprons can be made of either cloth or leather and range from plain to heavily decorated.Around the waist many dancers wear a belt, which can be beaded or decorated with metal tacks or conchos.

On their legs most dancers wear beaded knee bands with 6 to 10 inch leather fringe hanging from the bottom edge. Around the ankles are worn angora "furs". One may see the high fancy dance style furs worn with the bells tied on at the knees but this is less common. Although not as common, leggings can be worn in place of the furs and knee bands. Both the skin tube style and cloth flap leggings can be seen. When leggings are worn, the bells are tied round the knees. The bells can be almost any size and type. Fully or partially beaded, hard-soled moccasins are worn.

The bustle is usually the U-shaped type with a single row of wing or tail feathers and two spikes pointing upward. Sometimes additional rows of dyed and stripped feathers, fluffs or hackles are on the inside of the bustle. Though not as common the circular bustle and the old style mess bustle are sometimes used, the latter being somewhat rare.In his hands, the dancer can carry a range of objects, commonly the wing fan, pipe bag, etc. The movement in this style is one that is sometimes characterized as similar to a prairie chicken. The dancer is also said to be re-enacting the movement of a warrior searching for the enemy.


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SCOUTING FOR FOOD, Saturday, February 7, 2015. 
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