Lakota Sneak-Up Song and Dance

Lakota Sneak-Up Song and Dance

Posted By Jonathan Holmes July 19th, 2011 Last Updated on: May 26th, 2020

I’ve learned from a number of Lakota Elders that the original Hunka bloka olowan (“Honored Warrior Song”), later called the Sneak-Up Song around the time of the wild west shows, had to do with certain warriors who would sneak into the thick of a battle, at great personal danger, to carry a wounded comrade to safety. The song was said to be a remnant of a Warrior Society Dance (perhaps the Brave Heart Society), called Tunweye wacipi (“Scout Dance”), back in the buffalo days.

I’ve also learned from Lakota elders that the original version of the dance went something like this:

First warriors/veterans known to have been wounded in battle would be escorted to the center of the dance arbor. Then, lying on the ground in the center of the dance arbor, these wounded warriors/veterans would remain during the first part of the dance. Dancers would then line up on one side of the dance arbor, standing side by side, facing the same direction, looking towards the wounded warriors/veterans.

When the rolling drum beats start, in the beginning of the song, symbolizing the spiritual power of the thunderstorm, the dancers rattle their bells to increase the sound of the thunder, while making movements which represent the attempts to look for their wounded warriors in the dust and confusion of the battle.

The drum beats would then change, and the dancers slowly danced, advancing side by side toward the wounded warriors/veterans in the center. This would represent how they would charge at the enemy to scatter the enemy away from their fallen comrades. When the drum beats stop, the dancers would stop and stay in place in their line.

This rolling the drum movements followed by a dancing advance to charge on their enemies and scatter them away is repeated three more times. Each time the dancers would advance only 1/4 of the distance towards the wounded warriors/veterans in the center. Then after the fourth set, the dancers would help the wounded warriors/veterans to their feet and dance with them around the arbor.

The two oldest known versions of the Lakota Sneak-Up Song says:

Oldest version:

Lakota:
le yuha manipe.
le yuha manipe.
le yuha manipe.
le yuha manipe.
le yuha manipe.
le yuha manipe.
le yuha manipe.
le yuha manipe.
eca blokaunta ca wasoseyape. le yuha manipe.

English translation:
they are carrying him.
they are carrying him.
they are carrying him.
they are carrying him.

they are carrying him.
they are carrying him.
they are carrying him.
they are carrying him.
behold the brave warrior in the thick of battle, they are carrying him.

 A later version:

Lakota:
heyuha manipe.
heyuha manipe.
heyuha manipe.
heyuha manipe.
heyuha manipe.
heyuha manipe.
heyuha manipe.
heyuha manipe.
heciya lakota hoksila ki wasoseyape, heyuha manipe.

English translation:
they are walking with him.
they are walking with him.
they are walking with him.
they are walking with him.
they are walking with him.
they are walking with him.
they are walking with him.
they are walking with him.
they have made a brave warrior from this Lakota boy, they are walking with him.

The Lakota Sneak-Up Song and Dance evolved into a type of veteran's honoring song after WWI and WWII, and would be sung after a traditional veteran's honoring song at pow-wows. Today however, although sometimes still used in the traditional way, the original Lakota Sneak-Up Song, and other more modern sneak-up songs that have been composed, are mainly used as contest songs for Men's Northern Traditional dance contests.


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About Jonathan Holmes

About PowWows.com - Founded in 1996, PowWows.com is your online gathering for all things Native American culture. Explore American Indian Culture through articles, interviews, videos, photos, and live streaming.



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