The Northern Traditional Dancer is a modern evolution of tribal outfits from the tribes of the Northern Plains such as Sioux, Blackfoot, Crow, Omaha and others.
Below is some information about the outfit's parts. It must be stressed that this is only a brief description as variations do exist from area to area and from tribe to tribe. Careful observation and research be undertaken before starting to construct this type outfit. On his head the Traditional Dancer wears a roach made of porcupine hair and deer tail hair. The longer porcupine hair is preferred because of it's movement. The roach spreader can be made of bone, metal, rawhide or leather. It can be carved, beaded, painted, etc. or just left plain. The roach feathers are inserted in sockets on the spreader, with two roach feathers being the usual number. The rocker spreader, popular with fancy dancers, is rarely seen. Occasionally one will see dancers wearing beaded headbands, often decorated with medallions or drops. Quilled wheels can also be worn in the hair.
Most dancers wear a shirt, either with or without ribbon decoration. Over the shirt is worn a breastplate that usually extends below the waist. Around the neck is a choker either of hair pipes and beads or a beaded strip. Many dancers also wear two bandoliers of hair pipes and beads or a 3 to 5 inch strip of otter or other fur decorated with mirrors or a combination of both. A vest can be worn either of cloth or leather and some vests are beaded.
Arm bands and cuffs can be either beaded or metal or a combination of the two such as beaded cuffs with metal arm bands. The breech cloth or aprons can be made of either cloth or leather and range from plain to heavily decorated. Around the waist many dancers wear a belt, which can be beaded or decorated with metal tacks or conchos.
On their legs most dancers wear beaded knee bands with 6 to 10 inch leather fringe hanging from the bottom edge. Around the ankles are worn angora “furs”. One may see the high fancy dance style furs worn with the bells tied on at the knees but this is less common. Although not as common, leggings can be worn in place of the furs and knee bands. Both the skin tube style and cloth flap leggings can be seen. When leggings are worn, the bells are tied round the knees. The bells can be almost any size and type. Fully or partially beaded, hard-soled moccasins are worn.
The feather bustle is usually the u-shaped type with a single row of wing or tail feathers and two spikes pointing upward. Sometimes additional rows of dyed and stripped feathers, fluffs or hackles are on the inside rwo of the bustle. Though not as common the circular bustle and the old style mess bustle are sometimes used, the latter being somewhat rare.
In his hands, the dancer can carry a range of objects, commonly being a wing fan, pipe bag, dance stick, etc.
The movement in this style is one that is sometimes characterized as similar to a prairie chicken. The dancer is also said to be re-enacting the movement of a warrior searching for the enemy.
Find out more in the northern traditional forum.
See more pictures of northern traditional dancers in the traditional dance gallery.
Explore Native Culture