*These descriptions are only to give an idea of the dance styles and regalia. Every dancer has his or her own particular
style, and outfits vary from different nations.*
The dancer wears a bustle, often of eagle feathers, a bone bead breastplate, leggings, beaded moccasins, a beaded
belt, ankle bells, a porcupine roach headress, breechcloth, various beaded accesories, and carries an eagle feather fan. These
dancers often paint their faces in different styles, sometimes derived from their family or nation's designs. Out of respect
for this dance, spectators may be asked to stand.
In this style, the dancer represents a warrior scouting the enemy. The regalia usually consists of a porcupine roach,
or an otter-skin turban, an otter skin trailer, vest, bead or ribbonwork, arm cuffs, leggings, a breechcloth, a bandolier,
beaded moccasins, and a ribbon shirt. The dancer carries a feather fan, and perhaps a staff.
This is the oldest style of the powwow dances. Originating in the plains, there are several stories as to how it started.
One version (Ponca) tells of when, long ago, the people went to an isolated spot on the prarie to give thanks. Some of the
men stomped down the grasses to make way for dancing. The regalia consists of yokes and breechcloths fringed with rows of
brightly colored yarn (grass), usually a roach headdress, fringed anklets, and sheep bells worn around the lower legs. Grass
dancers use many sways, dips, and sliding steps.
This dance originated in Oklahoma and is one that lets each dancer demonstrate his athletic ability and originality.
Acrobatics are not uncommon, and this dance requires a lot of endurance. The men wear double bustles, usually trimmed with
brightly dyed hackle feathers, decorated yokes and breechcloths, angora anklets with sheep bells, beaded moccasins, arm bands,
and a porcupine roach.
There are two types: buckskin dresses often have fully beaded yolks, long fringe, and and the dancers may wear long
breastplates, and beaded moccasins and leggings. Cloth dresses are commonly decorated with elk teeth or dentalium shells,
and breastplates. Both style of dancers carry a shawl folded over an arm, and carry an eagle feather fan. This dance is one
that requires much skill to stay in perfect rythym, stepping lightly, slightly bobbing up and down, and allowing the fringe
on their dresses and shawls to sway gracefully.
The style of these dresses comes from the southern plains down to the gulf states. Also incuded are the long, tiered
dresses common to the southeast. Some have elaborate ribbonwork (depending on the wearer's Nation), a shawl folded over an
arm, and maybe a concho belt. The beat is slower on Southern songs, and the dancer sways side-to-side gracefully as she steps.
This dance comes from the Ojibway Nation and started in about the 1920s. The dresses are decorated with rolled snuff
can lids (other types of metal lids may be used), which hit each other when the dancer moves, creating a pleasing "jingle"
sound. She carries a feather fan, and sometimes a scarf or beaded purse. Beaded leggings, moccasins, and a beaded or concho
belt complete the outfit. Besides the traditional jingle step, they also use a sidestep, in which the dancer moves both feet
along in a slide-type motion, or steps sideways to the beat.
This dance is said to represent the transition of a cocoon to a butterfly. Women wear calf-length skirts, a beaded
or sequinned cape/vest, and matching leggings and moccasins. The shawl is worn across the shoulders, and held slightly out
at the elbows. The dancer uses spins ans freestyle footwork to demonstrate her originality.
Grass Dancers, Intertribal Indian Ceremonial Powwow, Gallup, NM, 1994