Dancers have always been a very important part of the American Indian, no matter what tribe. Most dances seen at Powwows today are "social" dances which might have had different meanings in earlier days but have evolved through the years to the social dances of today.
This Pow wow will consist of many different dances, some of which are listed here. They will not occur in the order listed; for this is up to the discretion of the master of ceremonies and the Spirit of the Powwow. Although dance styles and content have changes, their meaning and importance to the Indian has not.

There are many types of war dances. In early times, the ceremonial dance called "haylushka" was restricted to warriors, and only the best dancers were chosen to participate.
Today, the war dance is a victory dance among the Plains Indians. It is purely social and is enjoyed by all who care to participate. It is a dignified dance, rather than a violent dance as is commonly supposed.

This is a social dance. Dancers move in rows of circles clockwise around the drum in a side-step, with the faster moving line in the middle close to the drum and the slower toward the outside, away from the drum. The entire line moves as one body, each in harmony to the rhytm of the drum.

These are two of the few dances where men and women dance as partners. The "Rabbit Dance" comes from northern tribes such as the Sioux. The Two-Step is an adaptation of the Rabbit Dance.
Women choose their partners. Couples, holding hands, circle the drum stepping off with the left foot and dragging the right up with it in time to loud-soft drum beats. In earlier days, if a man refused to dance, he had to "pay" (money or craft item) to the asker.

A social dance - the snake dance is just what the name implies. Dancers follow each other in a single line, moving in and out in a snake-like manner. The line of dancers describes the journey of a large snake through the forest and up the mountains, coiling up for a rest, uncoiling and traveling on. The "snake" comes to a river, section by section he crosses, down to the last smallest tail dancer.

Blanket dances are held each session of a PowWow to help subsidize traveling expenses of visiting drums. The audience is welcome to participate in all of the blanket dances.

Everyone is welcome to dance during and Intertribal - even visitors! You don't need an outfit, and you don't even have to be Indian. It's perfectly acceptable to dance in your street clothes. An Intertribal is not so much a particular type of dance as it is a chance for everyone to dance together. The dance moves "sunwise" (clockwise) around the circle and the basic step is the same one used by traditional dancers: the ball of one foot is tapped on one beat and the entire foot is placed down flatly with the next beat, then the step is repeated with the opposite foot without missing a beat. Everybody dance!

A great deal has been written about the Grass or "Omaha" dance, one of the oldest of the surviving tribal dances. Borrowed from the Omaha tribe, perhaps in the 1860's, the Grass Dance is very popular today. Dancers' outfits are decorated with thick hanks of long, colorful fringes, which sway gracefully with the movements of the dancers' bodies in a movement reminiscent of the long, blowing grass of the prairie. Several tribes dance their own version of the dance, and some say that the fringes replace the grasses that the dancers originally would tuck into their belts. Another tribe remembers dancing in order to flatten out the long prairie grasses in preparation for a ceremony. Still others think it originated to celebrate victory over an enemy. Many dancers wear the hair roach, the crow-belt and the eable-bone whistle - originally emblems of the Omaha Society.
The basic step of the Omaha dance involved the ball of one foot being tapped on the 1-beat and placed down flatly with the next beat, then repeating the action on the opposite foot without missing a beat. Each time the foot is placed flatly on the ground, the weight shifts to that foot. Dancers are expected to keep their heads moving either up and down with the beat of the drum, nodding quickly several times to each beat, or moving from side to side. The purpose of this movement is to keep the roach crest feathers spinning. To keep the feathers moving constantly is one side of a good dancer.

A modern dance outfit with its roots in the old grass dance. It is a relatively new dance style. The dancers wear two brilliantly colored feather bustles, and their outfits are much flashier and more brightly colored than the Men's Traditional outfits.
The Fancy Dance performed mostly by boys and young men is based on the standard "double step" of the Men's Traditional and Grass Dances, but it takes off from there with highly elaborate dance footwork, greatly increased speed, acrobatic steps and motions and more varied body movements. The Fancy Dance is a freestyle kind of dance, in which dancers do whatever they can, as long as they keep up with the music! As in other dance styles, the dancers must follow the changing beat of the drum and stop when the music stops, with both feet on the ground. This dance is a modern expression of Indian people combining the pace of today with the traditions of yesterday.
Some parts of the fancy dancer's regalia are:

Hair Roach
- an item worm on the head of most dancers, usually made of deer tail hair; and porcupine hair guard.

- (sheep or sleigh) help to maintain the rhythm of the dance.

- are the arrangement of feathers worn on the neck and back of fancy dancers. The primary part of the bustle is the feather. These were at one time, eagle feathers. Today many are made of white or dark turkey feathers decorated with small colorful feathers called hackles. In addition to the bustles of the fancy dancers, another noticeable part is the elaborate beadwork. Many dancers strive to have all matching beadwork.

Looking over the dance arena, notice a very different outfit and dance style. The straight or traditional dancer stays more in traditional dance style, and expresses his own traditional styles in dress.
Although dance style varies depending on the individual, on tribal and/or regional ties, there are certain items of apparel which are common among most straight dancers.

Fur Cap
- with decorations of beads, or silver decoration

Cloth or Skin Leggings, Breech Cloth, Trailer
- are decorated with very intricate ribbon work and bead work.

- beads worn across chest made of glass, bone, brass and many other beads or bead like objects.

- long narrow strip of otter hide hanging from dancer's neck down his back to the floor (ground). The otter is the most highly prized hide for the "dragger" because of the speed of the otter.

- very few will still use the old style of deer hoofs around the knees or ankles.
The straight or traditional dancer does not erupt into the energetic, fast pace of the fancy dancer. Rather, he executes a very graceful, dignified dance more closely reselbling dance style of early days.

Because women would only dance in the background at Pow Wows on special occasions and to certain songs, the Women's Traditional Dance is somewhat subdued. The women remain stationary and bend their knees with a slight up and down movement of the body. Their feet shift subtly and the women turn slightly. By raising their fans, women will sometimes signel their price and acknowledgment of a particular word in a song that has meaning to them.
The outfits worn by the Women's Traditional dancers vary according to tribal background. These outfits are usually made from buckskin or cloth. Often the entire top of the dance dress is beaded with symbolic designs that hold meaning to the individual owner. The dress is often adorned with ribbon work, elks teeth, and shells. Accessories include decorated moccasins, knee-high leggings, beaded or concho belts, hair ties, earrings, chokers, and necklaces. Some women may wear or carry a shawl, and some may carry a feather fan made from Eagle or hawk feathers.

The Women's Jingle Dress Dance is named for the metal cone decorated dresses worn by the dancers. The dress is made of cloth and is decorated with hundreds of metal cones called jingles. Jingles are made from the tin lids of tobacco snuff cans. While dancing, these metal cones hit against one another creating a jingling sound.
There are numerous stories of the origin of the Jingle Dress. According to one of them, a holy man from Mille Lacs, Minnesota had a dream that came to him from the Great Spirit. He dreamt of four women that showed him how to make the metal-cone dresses. They also taught him what type of songs went with this particular style of dress and how to dance while wearing it. Upon awakening, he and his wife made four of the dresses, called the four young women who in his dream had worn the dresses, dressed them in the dresses they had made, and brought them forth at a dance. They told the people about the dream, and that this was a new way the women were to dress and dance.

This is considered to be a new style of dancing that originated when women started making shawls in the early 1900's to replace the blanket and buffalo robes they would wear in public. This dance, thought to have evolved from young women showing off their new shawls, is very energetic and graceful. The fancy foot work, the main component of the dance, is done to the changing beat of the drum, and involves spinning and other elaborate movements.
Dancers of the Women's Fancy dance wear decorative knee-length cloth dresses, beaded moccasins, and matching leggings. Flashy sequins are an important part of the regalia. The outfit is finished with a fancy shawl and Native American jewelry. The dancer wears her shawl around her shoulders so the fringes bounce.

When Indians acquired cloth from white traders, they began to make much of their clothing from it.
Indians from all areas created many different styles. Some are decorated with various stypes of shells or elk teeth.
Many eastern woodland, plains and southwestern people made cloth shirts and blouses. They were elaborately decorated with ribbon and silver buttons. This style spread in popularity. Ribbons were used to decorate shirts, shawls, blouses, skirts, leggings, etc. The ribbon is cut, folded or appliqued in order to create geometric or abstract floral designs. Indian women currently practice these and other inventive methods of creating their unique garments.

Some buckskins are tanned commercial hides. The most treasured are Indian tanned buckskins because the Indian tanning process makes the hide soft as velvet.
When a woman acquires three to six hides, depending on the size, she must cut and sew them together. This is an art, and many women take the hides to a well-known Indian dressmaker to assure proper fit and style.
When the dress is finished, many hours of beading begins. Beading ranges from fully beaded tops (common among Sioux) to beaded strips across the front, shoulders and around the bottom of the dress. This is typical of southern plains Indians. Women try to match accessories to the beadwork on the dress.

The Boys' and Girls' dance categories, for 6 to 12 year olds, are an important part of Pow Wow competitions. American Indian culture demonstrate a high regard for their children, and the Children's Competition is considered a training ground for later transition into adult championship dance categories. Part of the learning process involves the intricate customs related to traditional dance forms and spiritual beliefs.

Giving gifts is one way of honoring certain individuals or groups among Indian people. Here the gesture is far more important than the value of the gift. There may be various reasons for the give-away, and it usually takes a great deal of time. It is an important part of Indian life, and the audience is asked to show proper courtesy and respect for the event. It must be remembered that it is an honor both to receive and give gifts. It is another expression of Indian people sharing by paying honor to one another. If an individual gift is not given, many times gifts are placed on the ground around the drum and the person or persons given are honored, if these are picked up.
HOOP DANCE: The Hoop Dance represents the sacred circle of life. The person that performs this dance is the center of that sacred circle. In order for one to attain ability to perform dance, one must receive it through a vision, or through a dream that must be interpreted through a Holy Man.

The information in this section of the website is courtesy of 'Chicago Original Powwow' 48th Annual Pow Wow Flyer