Sacred Texts  Native American  Plains  Index  Previous  Next 


The remaining rites are the dances, of which there must be two, though there may be others. These two are the Buffalo Dance and the Sun-Gazing Dance. These dances are divided into periods. The Buffalo Dance has four periods and the Sun-Gazing Dance must have four and may have an indefinite number of periods. A period consists of the dance proper and the intermission. The (lancing must take place while the music is sounded; an intermission is the interval between the (lancing. The leader should give the signal for the musicians to begin sounding the music for each period and the musicians should repeat the song for each period four times.

The Buffalo Dance should be danced only by those who are to dance the second, third, or the fourth form of the Sun Dance and by those who have danced this dance on some former occasion. It is danced as follows:--The leader should go to the altar and feign three times to lift the ornamented buffalo head; the fourth time he should lift it and place it on the uncovered

p. 115

space so that the dancers can surround it. The dancers should form in a circle about this head when the leader should signal for the music to begin and when it does, the dancers should dance the step of the Buffalo Dance. This step should be synchronous with the beat of the drum, each second beat being emphatic; at the emphatic beat the feet are alternately brought to the ground with a scraping motion. This is done to imitate the pawing of a buffalo bull in rage or defiance and to manifest a defiant bravery of the dancers equal to that of the buffalo bull. During this dance those who are to dance the Sun Dance must keep the whistles in their mouths, but should not sound them. While dancing they must gaze continually at the ornamented buffalo head. The red marshals should watch them, and if one of them ceases to gaze at this head they should admonish him; and if he persists in looking away from it they should conduct him to his robe. One thus removed from this dance loses the privilege of becoming a buffalo man. Those who dance the four periods of this dance become buffalo men. The red herald should proclaim that they are buffalo men and the people should shout and sing, lauding them with such praises as these:--"You now belong to the people of the Sun; you now will not have to pay the price when you take a woman for your wife; you now will have many children who will honor you; you now may receive a communication from the Sun."

The attendants should then each give to his dancer one of the buffalo tails attached to a handle and the buffalo men should sit about the dried buffalo skin and when they sing should drum on it with the tails.

Next: Piercing Children's Ears