Manataka American Indian Council





Women's Traditional Dance

By Jennifer Whitefeather Attaway, Manataka Dance Keeper




The Women's Traditional Dance is the very oldest form of dance for ladies. Females of all ages are seen dancing this very regal and proud style. Pride of heritage, culture, and family can be seen in the faces and demeanor of these well-respected dancers. In fact, when performing this style in competitions, judges watch the ladies to see if the required dignity is retained all throughout the dance. 


When moving in the Circle, there are Northern and Southern ways of dancing Women's Traditional. Northern style is danced by remaining in one spot, lightly bouncing in rhythm with the drum. Southern style has the women slowly and gracefully walking around the Circle in time with the drum, gently stepping toe-heel, toe-heel with the feet appearing to "walk on clouds". Both styles carry a fringed shawl folded over their bent left arm, a purse in their left hand, and a feather fan, usually eagle or hawk, in their right hand. 


The women hold themselves tall and proud, their bodies straight. The fringe on the shawl is to sway naturally with the movements of the women's feet, not from upper body bending or swinging. The fan is raised in salute when the women hear the drum giving honor beats. 


Some ladies will also bend at the waist at this time, remaining in one spot or taking a certain number of steps inward toward the middle of the Circle. At all times, the dancers are to stay in time with the drum and stop precisely when the drumming ends. The ladies wear knee-length beaded moccasins, leggings, and either a bucksin or cloth dress that has long, open sleeves. There are two styles of buckskin dress; once again, Northern and Southern. The Northern style is to completely bead the shoulder or cape part of the dress, whereas, the Southern style uses beadwork mainly as an accent. Also in bucksin regalia, the moccasins are either fully beaded (Northern) or accent-beaded (Southern). 


Both cloth and buckskin dancers wear a leather concho belt from which they hang a knife in its case and a tobacco pouch situated at the sides or back of the waist. Each style aslo wears a breastplate made from bone pipe and glass beads that can drape to the waist (Southern) or all the way to the ankles (Northern). However cloth dancers typically wear their breastplates over the front and back, unlike the buckskin dancers who wear just a front-sided style. At the neck, the ladies wear either a scarf or a choker. Other jewelry is optional and usually is in designs and colors that have either personal, tribal, or family significance. The hair can be worn pretty much however the woman desires from loose and flowing to braided. 


Some dancers will weave ribbons in their braids or wear beaded barrettes and pieces of fur attached to their hair as well. Also, although most dancers wear a single feather (usually eagle or hawk) in their hair, some have been seen wearing several feathers. All in all, both the cloth and bucksin regalia along with all the trimmings are equally beautiful. However, this author thinks that the Women's Traditional Dancers themselves are the most lovely of all with their pride and grace on display in their faces and the way they carry themselves.

Adapted by Jennifer Whitefeather Attaway




National Educational Film and Video Award Winner! A colorful and informative video on how best to enjoy attending a Powwow. Slow motion sequences show the grace, power and intricate steps of many dance styles and shows the vitality and variety of the powwow. Interviews with tribal elders, dancers and singers will help you know what
watch for. Historic photographs and eye witness accounts relate how the powwow began and how it is evolving. 58 min. Order No. D105    $26.95



A perfect tape for beginners to learn traditional dance steps. Learn the parts of a war dance song, master the basic steps for men and women and learn how to dance "on the song".  All the dance styles are depicted. Many  excellent suggestions to become a professional powwow dancer are discussed.  This colorful and exciting video is suitable for ages 5 and up. Order No. D111 $26.95 


A DVD that many dancers have requested. Watch and learn the following dances: Men's Straight Dance, Northern Traditional, Grass Dance, Fancy Dance, Women's Southern Cloth, Women's Buckskin, Jingle Dress, Fancy Shawl Dress. Taped at various Southern Plains powwows and celebrations. A wealth of expert tips. 60 min. Order No. D10610 $26.95



The first-ever American Indian-produced documentary to air on a major television network, this film features a cast from the Oneida, Ponca, and Lakota. Narrated by Peter Coyote, this program introduces unique styles of dance, including the Indian Wheel, Crow Hop, Grass Dance, and Fancy Dance and other men and women's traditional dances. These ancient dances have proven to have a lasting influence on many contemporary American Indians. 65 Min. D41-5  $$26.9526.95


JINGLE DRESS - Champion Dancers At Northern Powwow Contests   DVD

  • Featuring competition steps: Straight and Side

  • Featuring the competition steps: Straight and Side

  • Enjoy the beautiful outfits close-up

  • Learn how to make and attach cone jingles

  • Discover the history and evolution of the dance
    (30 minutes)   D149 $26.95


Native American Dance Styles Video Series - Jingle Dress  DVD

Same content and length as the VHS version above.  Now only  WH -D149 $24.95

Fancy Dance Video Box

Fancy Dance Native American Dance Series DVD
Seventy years ago in Oklahoma, Ponca tribal elders called it "the crazy dance". Today, it's called "Fancy Dancing" and the fancy dancer is the symbol of the color and action of the powwow throughout North America. "Fancy Dance" explores the excitement and the evolution of this dance style. Close-ups show the footwork of champion contest dancers. The video shows how the music, outfits and steps have changed with the times. A head singer talks about special contest songs. A dancer puts on his intricate regalia before a competition, talking about how to wear it properly. For dancers and those who just want to know more about this exciting dance style, this video is ideal.
(30 min.)   D119 DVD    $22.95


Fancy Shawl Dance combines color and grace with endurance and strength and is one of the newest powwow contest dances.

  • Champion dancers at Northern Powwow contests, featuring Straight and Crow Hop steps.

  • Beautiful outfits close-up and watch a champion dancer get ready for competition.

  • Expert tips on how to choose colors, create designs and sew on fabric and fringe.

  • Follow a young champion dancer on the powwow trail as she continues three generations of fancy shawl dancing.

  • Rare interviews and footage of the first Fancy Shawl dancers.

Shot on digital video on location at northern powwows.  (30 min. DVD format)       The popular video Fancy Shawl is now available on DVD  $22.95  




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