Southern Cloth and Buckskin dancers are very similar, so much so that in some powwows, southern cloth and buckskin dancers compete under the same category of Women’s Traditional. Both styles are, in a sense, meant to evoke the dignity and grace of our traditional First Nations women, and by dancing in this way, modern women honor women of the past.
Southern Cloth dancers wear a one or two-piece cloth dress. Dancers sometimes use shiny, satin material to accentuate the dressiness of the occasion. The dress is adorned with applique ribbon work in tribal designs and colors. She also wears a matching purse and shawl with long ribbon fringes. She holds an eagle feather fan at her waist, and accessorizes with a scarf at the neck. Sometimes, a dancer wears a beaded crown. She also wears an eagle feather or plume in her braided hair, and otter wraps that often drape down past the waist. The outfit is completed with beaded leggings and moccasins.
Buckskin dancers differ in that they wear tanned deer hide instead of cloth to make their dresses. Some buckskin dancers wear fully beaded dresses, while others use beadwork to accentuate the soft leather of their regalia. Newer dresses tend to have longer fringe. The rest of the accessories are the same, with the addition that buckskin dancers wear items on their belts meant to be indicative of early plains life–their beaded pouch often contains flint and awl, and they wear a knife sheet and a drag.
The dance at first seems, to the casual observer, deceptively simple. The dancer moves gracefully, taking very short, up-and-down steps. What the observer soon begins to notice, though, is the enormous amount of dignity, posture, and precision this dance requires. The dancer coordinates the swaying of the fringes on her shawl and purse while keeping her upper body stiff. Some dancers bow at the honor, or hard beats in the choruses of the songs out of respect for the drum. The woman’s traditional category is an essential tenant of the modern powwow, and a very honoring dance to participate in.
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.