Northern Traditional Dancing

Northern Traditional Dancing

Posted By Paul G July 21st, 2011 Last Updated on: May 10th, 2019

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.

Traditional Dance Photos

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can someone tell me the origins of this dance

bert elkriver

greetings to you all.
I am inquiring of the stories to some of the dances. I am researching the Northern Style Women’s Traditional Dance. What is the story behind it? What does it symbolize. Please respond.


What is the significance of the tying on an apron in the Native American culture?

Ruth Hayon

I would love to learn some moves of pow wow tribal dance. Are there any videos I can buy anywhere. I’d give anything to learn it Thanks so much.

Bruce Sandy

Even though I am mils away and many days late to respond. The heart that the people who are asking for help is very humbling. f course someone comes forward to contribute to someone else moving in the pat the Creator wants them to move to. I wih I could humble myself like they have the courage to. Miigwech.


I’m new into dancing and I would love to get started on a female dance outfit. I can’t sew and have a limited budget. Would someone please be willing to guide me through the process of getting an outfit put together? I would be very thankful and would be more than willing to return the favor. Thanks

mark spiritwolf nelson

not sure if im even on the right page or if anyone can help me im live on a fix income but love to dance when i worked i had a fully beaded out fir im a northern traditonal dancer and love doing it but was forced from danceing this year when someone decided to steal my stuff from my home due to my income i can not afford to have another one beaded but would love to get back out and dance im looking for someone to make me a new one useing only cloth and maybe sew in my designe i like to have one don in blue and yellow for this is the colors im lookijng for my dance staff that was donated from one friend is yellow with a hawks foot and feathers my roach that was donated from another friend is blue nor i need someone to make a outfit im not asking for someone to donate it i would like to pay for it to be done just cant afford alot if there is someone that maybe even has a used one i will buy it im a big man so will need a items to fit me i thank anyone that can help and send many native blesings to them


i can help you

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