Straight Dancing

By Paul G on July 21, 2011
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The Straight Dance from Oklahoma Native American Tribes is a formal, tailored, prestigious form of southern dance clothes.   The overall effect is of reassuring solidity, with everything closely matched and coordinated.   It looks as if it is planned all at one time.

This dance has evolved from the Hethuska Dances.   It is believed that the Ponca tribe of American Indians created this style.  The Hethuska are dances held by different societies.  There are several articles in the standard set.  The items that should match are arranged as sets, and everything should be closely coordinated.

The garters are finger woven.  The side tabs match, and hang from hip to mid-calf.  The better sets have beads woven into the fabric. Osage, Sac and Fox, or Ponca ribbonwork runs down each side of the aprons, the leggings, and three bars of it cross the dragger.  The aprons, leggings, trailer, and otter dragger or drop are all made of heavy wool, usually dark blue.  Red wool is usually reserved for the eldest son.  One, two, or three ribbons bind the raw edges not covered by the main ribbonwork, and the edges are ornamented with white edge beading.  Rainbow selvage edges mark the better sets made from trade cloth.  Ribbonwork vests are becoming popular also.

Kiowa and Comanche usually were tab leggings.  These are usually made of white or natural leather, but are also made of canvas.  At both knees, two tabs hang from the leggings.  These are usually backed with red or blue wool.  From the bottom of the tabs hang horsehair or twisted fringe.  The tabs are also decorated with lanes of lazy stitch beadwork and edge beading.  The Kiowa tabs are generally triangular, with the end coming to a point.  The Comanche tabs are generally squared off at the end.  Below the tabs going down the leggings are many strands of twisted leather fringe.

The belt is a strip of loom beadwork, 4 to 4 1/2 inches wide, and is mounted on heavy leather, or is sometimes made of silver conchos.  Silver spots stud the edges of the leather.  The dancer’s otter strip, it has about 2 inches wide, and is attached with one or two beaded rosettes or silver conchos and hangs down the back.  Some dancers also have all concho draggers.  The spreader, arm bands, and slide are made of German sliver, in stamped, overlay, or cutout patterns.  One feather is usually put in the spreader.

The beadwork set is done in Peyote or Comanche beadwork.  The fan is usually a flat or loose fan.  The otter feathers are also attached with rosettes or conchos, and may be worn with or without an otter strip. The bandoliers match as to materials and colors, but may have from one to three strands or sometimes even four or more. They are worn crisscross on the body.

[ad#rectangle]The ribbon shirt is made of satin, brocade, or floral print material, with contrasting ribbon.  The neckerchief, scarves, and arm band ribbons match the ribbon in the shirt.  Scarves are attached to the bandoliers at the shoulder blades.  The roach is made of porcupine hair, and either white or red deer hair. A more prized roach is made of turkey beard hair.  The headband is usually a white scarf. Dancers sosometimes carry a pouch of white deerskin, with beaded decoration or other types of bags.

Bells may be either chrome or brass, and are mounted on a long leather strip.  The moccasins are usually Southern Cheyenne, and should be at least partially beaded.  A Straight Dancer will carry either a mirror board or a tail stick in their right hand.  The tail stick originated as the badge of office of a Tail Dancer in a Hethuska Society.  Today the tail stick is carried by many dancers in and out of the Hethuska Dance.  A tail stick is usually given to a Straight Dancer by another experienced dancer.  A mirror board is a substitute for the tail stick, and may be carried by any dancer.

There are a lot of clothes to wear in the outfit, and accordingly the dance is slow and proud.  The art of straight Dancing is in the little, sometimes unnoticed things, both in the movement and the outfit. Smoothness, precision with the song, knowledge of dance etiquette, and a powerful sense of pride mark the outstanding Straight Dancer.

Find out more in the Straight Dance Forum.

See more pictures of Straight Dancers in the Straight Dance Gallery.


TOPICS: Pow Wow, Pow Wow Dancing

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17 Responses to “Straight Dancing”

  1. Nancy M. Smithj says:

    The Native American people are a beautiful people. We would do well to appreciate them and their customs more. They possess a beauty and knowledge that we could learn from.

    • Beverly Fry says:

      When one considers the horrible treatment of the Pueblo people by the Spanish and the Catholic and the dismissal of the Plains Indians to the reservations of the late 1800’s, the present day Native American is truly a testimony to survival, creativity, and personal pride. Modern-day dancers, drummers, and singers carry on the memory of their heritage and promote new, instinctive tribal goals.

  2. Tim says:

    Native Americans are a conquered people who were cruelly left to continue surviving in a crippled, helpless state. The reason they continue existing is because they have been allowed to.

    • Nyssa says:

      We didn’t keep existing because we were allowed to, we kept existing because we fought for what our people deserved and what everyone else wouldn’t let us have.

      • Donald Fleming says:

        I couldn’t agree more. Except that no native American has ever received a portion of what they’re owed.

    • Nyssa says:

      Native Americans did not keep existing because we were allowed to, we kept existing because we fought for what our people deserve and what we thought was right.

  3. Klaudia says:

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    My website is in the very same niche as yours and my visitors would certainly benefit from some of the information you present here.
    Please let me know if this okay with you. Thanks!

  4. Veronica "little Red Fox Women" Remus says:

    I have researched my American Native line and now have my card ,however the tribe enrolled with (at the I did not know) was not federally recognized but now I am with them till they are. Any way my question is , does any one have any more information on, Poirier ,Martineau,( lepine, lapine) or Charbonneau.? these are MY ancestors I did get far back as 1629 and Mohawk, Chippewa, Potawatomi. Mackinac Area. Canada and Mothers side great possible Black foot,(feet)? Grand mother was a spring born in Montana and farther was a horse breaker for the army but left the family and said to be native American I have copy of army card but confused. I have been all over ancestry .com and every other family search place and lets just say big head ach. If anyone can shed a light it would be wonderful. When I am done with all of this I would really love to find someone in my area that would help me with my regalia for future POW WOWs that I would love to attend in Michigan area. Migwetch

    • Mark Cetan Corwin says:

      I am from Mich. as my father He is a straight dancer , I am a feather dancer and was raised as a Native Lived on the rez in N.m. I do not recongize the names but be proud of what you have. The outfits you refer to would more than likely be more of the Iroquois depending what region of Mich. you are from if I can help any further I will Cetan

  5. kathy a stevens says:

    im look 4 the colors of the menomine colors
    cause I knit scafes and lap blankets and I would like 2 do one in these colors as red black white yellow
    but I would like 2 see how they are layed out ?
    thank u Kathy a stevens

  6. kathy a stevens says:

    I just need a snap shot pic

  7. Nyle Lew says:

    I have had some surgery, about six, from the VA, I watch the beautiful people on my laptop. It keeps my spirit up. I hope to make some of the pow wows this year. I love going to them. I love all of you and keep all of you in my prayers. Thank all of you, and God bless all of you. Hoyt.

  8. Lynn Howard birum says:

    I have been told by both of my Grandmothers that I am of Cherokee decent.. Each grandmothers mother was to have been full blooded. How would I go about finding out my prestigious heritage and my ancestors. Just the thinking there is this blood running through my veins warms my heart beyond words.
    Thank you

  9. Clark says:

    I am currently making a Straight Set and am wondering if the belt has to match my otter strip. I am taking inspiration primarily from the Osage in terms of design. If you could give me some perspective it would be very appreciated

  10. Betty says:

    I looking for an Indian Headrest made with feathers and safety pins that is made for rear view mirrors.

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