The Northern Traditional dance evokes the style of Plains Indians, their hunting parties and warriors, their Traditional outfits, and their bravery and courage as peoples of America who lived off the land long before settlers came and disrupted their ways of life. The traditional style we see today in powwows originated from the Sioux in South Dakota. Dancers carry a long coup stick, and/or fan, and wear a feather bustle.
There are two dances that a men’s traditional dancer should know. One is a sneak-up song. In this step, the dancer kneels to the ground and scouts for enemies’ tracks. In some traditions, the dancer keeps his bells quiet, but in modern dancing, the bells are often shaken. In the second part of the song, the dancer rises quickly. This symbolizes confrontation with the enemy. In sneak up songs, dancers never dance backward, as this would stand for retreat.
Northern Traditional dancers also dance the crow hop. This is a different step from the crow hop women dance. In the crow hop, dancers dip down and then rise up, often swaying their heads from side to side over unmoving shoulders. During the honor, or hard beats of the song, Northern Traditional dancers raise their fans or coup sticks to catch the drum’s spirit and honor the drum.
The Northern Traditional dance is exhilarating to behold for its enactment of ancient war parties. The regalia is handsome and honoring, and the dancers wear looks of pride on their faces, assured that their war party will come home victorious.
Misty Lynn Ellingburg (Shoalwater Bay) is a student at SeattlePacific University, majoring in English (concentration Literature) and minoring in Professional Writing. She has two brothers and two sisters–Brandt, Shana, Hope, and Hunter. Her mom, Lory, is a Tribal artist, and her dad, Todd, is becoming fluent in Salish, a local Tribal language. Her favorite Native writers are Leslie Marmon Silko, LouiseErdrich, and Sherman Alexie. She even met Mr. Alexie in Seattle at a book reading where she got his autograph and a picture taken together.