Various dances can be seen at a Pow Wow and each has its own significance and specific Regalia. The most popular for the women are the Jingle Dress, Fancy Shawl, Traditional and the Hoop Dance. For the men, Traditional, Grass and Ribbon or Fancy.
These dancers usually have quite elaborate Regalia consisting of feather, leather and beadwork. They are dressed in bone breast plates, war shields and many have painted their faces in an array of different patterns. These men wear a single ring bustle. Some of these dancers spend years assembling their Regalia, gathering different accessories to wear on their Regalia. Many traditional dancers portray hunting methods or tell stories during their dances. Others try to imitate the different forms of wild life that are native to the land. Some wear the chosen Regalia to represent their Clan. Their dance steps exhibit the old style of dance when gatherings such as Pow Wows were still in their infancy.
The Grass Dance
Over the last decade the Grass Dance has grown in popularity and is fast becoming a favourite for the young boys and teens. Their Regalia are made of bright coloured yarn and ribbon fringe. Most dancers have stunning beadwork but some are making the transition to coloured fabric to accent their Regalia. These dancers do not wear a feather bustle. This dance style requires a great deal of stamina and flexibility. Many of the movements are precise and intricate allowing spectators to catch a glimpse of some of the footwork these dancers use. This style of dancing is a favourite because the dancer can develop and exhibit his own individual steps, making each dancer different from the next. This dance was introduced from the western tribes. The dancer tries to imitate the grass as it moves in the wind or the movements of a horse's mane as the horse gallops across the plains. Grass dancers had the responsibility of being the first ones out in the dance area and packing down the grass with their feet for all the rest of the dancers who followed.
A woman's Traditional Regalia most often consists of leather but can also be made of fabric. Their leather Regalia is often adorned with extensive heavy beadwork. These women will often have a full length breastplate going almost to the ground. The skirt comes to the top of her leggings or can also come to the top of her moccasins. Traditional women dancers carry a folded shawl over one arm and usually a feather fan from an eagle which they hold in the air for the honour beat of the drum. The traditional women dancers represent the connection that all women have with Mother Earth. When they dance one foot is supposed to always be in touch with Mother Earth. This is why they barely lift their feet above the ground when they dance. Traditional women dancers dance with slow, rhythmic steps that allow their fringes, which often almost touch the ground, to swing and sway representing the slow, steady movement of life on Mother Earth, such as the rhythmic moving of water.
Women's Fancy Shawl
There are two teachings about the shawl, one is that they symbolize the butterfly in flight, the other teaching is that shawl dancers represent women warriors and their dancing is that of the warrior dance. Women's shawl dancing came to the east from the western tribes. Traditions in the west say that shawl dancers are similar to the grass dancers in that their dances represent warriors. It is said that one of the reasons that women were given the right to dance a war dance is because long ago the women used to be runners who ran from village to village warning of danger, which in return earned them the title of 'warrior'. Shawl dancer's Regalia is made of colourful fabric and ribbons, often with beads or sequin work, consisting of a skirt, leggings, moccasins, yoke and shawl which is draped over the shoulders. The dancers move with quick, fancy high stepping footwork accompanied by constant arm movement.
Women's Jingle Dress
The jingle dress is special in that the dress is as important as the dance. The jingle dress is a medicine dress and when a woman takes on the responsibility of their dress it should be treated with ceremony. She should fast prior to putting on the dress to wear in public for the first time. A feast follows the fast. The teachings say that the dress came from a man from the Lake of the Woods in Ontario whose daughter was ill. He has a vision of the jingle dress and how it was used to make his daughter well. His vision instructed him to give this dress to the people for the purpose of healing. Originally the jingles were made of shells. Over time cones made from snuff tins replaced the shells. These days the cones are ready made for the purpose of putting on the dress. There are two types of jingle dress dances, the side step and the faster high step straight step. Jingle dress dancers are often given tobacco at a gathering and asked to dance for someone who needs healing.
Women's Hoop Dance
Lisa Pitawanakwat, says that the Hoop Dance was once a Healing Dance but to her it’s more like storytelling. She explained that each dancer has a different layout and colour for her hoops. Hoop Dancers must be flexible and creative. The dance is fast paced and requires a number of different coloured hoops which are joined and looped together in different shapes and formations. Some of our local talent skilled in hoop dancing include: Amanda Two-Axe Kohoko, Taylor Ozawanimke, Alyssa Whiteduck, and Ember Sarazin.