The jingle dance is an innovative and rhythmic style which originated among the Chippewa in the early 1920s. Twisted Copenhagen can lids become cones which are sewn in rows or V shapes onto cloth or satin dresses. Accessories include a beaded or concho belt and a neck scarf. A purse or a dream catcher (sometimes both) held in one hand, and a feather fan in the other, which is raised on the honor beats in salute to the drum. Dancers often wear plumes in their hair, high top moccasins or beaded leggings, and other accessories such as beaded wrist cuffs and matching hair clips.
The jingle dance came from a medicine man’s dream, in which he saw women dancing gracefully with cones that shuffled softly from side to side. According to lore, the medicine man had a granddaughter who was gravely ill. He taught four women how to create the dress and dance the jingle dance, and had them dance in a circle around the little girl. The steps required that they never dance in a full circle, never dance backward, and never cross the ankles. Most of the dancing was done on the balls of the feet, shuffling back and forth to the beat of the drum.
In the story, the little girl who lay ill was at first unable to sit up or even move her head. By the second song of the dance, she sat up, and before the end of the night, she was so enraptured with the dancers that she was following them around the arena. Thus, the jingle dance is considered by some to be foremost a medicine dance.
Eventually, the dance style was given as a gift to the Lakota, and from there spread all across the nation. Today, it is yet another reminder of the beautiful and innovative dance styles that only First Nations people, with their keen sense of culture, tradition, and beauty, could have created.
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.