Caddo Stomp Dance and Turkey Dance

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Turkey Dance

Head ornament in Turkey dance
Head ornament in Turkey dance

The Caddo Turkey dance (R. nu’Gano’caniya’: nu’, turkey, cano’caniya’, going to dance) is danced by women only, circling two by two around the centre pole, their step a turkey trot. To sing for them is a choir of three or four men, who sit down around their drum, anywhere convenient. There is no dance leader. The dancers wear a broadcloth blanket, lots of bead work, and tied to their hair-braid at the back a plaque studded with small mirrors and brass tacks, with ribbons pendent.

Neither in connection with this dance nor at other times is there any ceremonial use of turkey feathers, and turkeys are eaten. The Turkey dance is not accounted a religious dance, it is merely “to pass the day away.”1

There are other pleasure dances performed not on the dance floor but off to the south side.

GakiDia’naGa’ (R.) (“You are in front of somebody”)

Two big fires are built, east and west, from ten to fifteen yards apart, and around them anti-sunwise circuits are danced. A man leader gives a shout and other men fall in behind him, the leader singing, the others singing back. After the men have made this start the women fall in, two women behind two men, the leader only going single. Serpentine figures are made, coiling and uncoiling. No drum, no special dress

Stomp Dance

Stomp dance,” White people call this summer pleasure dance.2

Gani’Ga’niasiwa’ (R.)

This is started by the women who stand in half circle about the drummer and choir for the first song. At the second song, the men fall in, alternating with the women, all holding hands, and now proceeding to dance around the two fires in a cord formation.

Dance formations

A. GakiDia’naGa’            B. Gani’Ga’niasiwa’          C. GaGi’dj’aniican

GaGi’GO’ani’ (R.) (to grab)

The women form a circle around the drummer, moving forward and back and singing with the drummer. They sing to the men to come and grab them. The men look for the girl they want, striking matches the better to find her. Each man holds the girl with her blanket around both, and the couples dance on around. This is an old tribal dance.

GaGi’dj’aniican (R.) (shake bells)

This is danced towards morning, i.e. it is the conclusive dance. Several men stand in line, from thirty to forty, White men among them. They face the east. The leader shakes the bells, sleigh bells strung on a strap. All sing. Then they start to go around the fires, the women, “after a good start,” falling in behind the men they want to dance with, and taking hands. Each faces the direction moved in, one hand forward, the other back. Fifteen or sixteen songs are sung.

Intertribal Dances

In August there is a week of intertribal dancing, by Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche, Wichita, and Caddo, at Washita or Anadarko or Wahtunga. The tribe that is giving the dance sets the dance pattern, i.e. the other tribes dance what their hosts dance. Were the Caddo the hosts, they would have the Caddo Ghost dance and the Stomp dances, the former for two or three days or five or six days, followed by the pleasure dances. In the Ghost dance the visiting tribes people “would get in anywhere,” dancing with the Caddo.

In 1919 a scalp dance was held at Wahtunga in connection with two scalps brought from Europe by Cheyenne soldiers.


  1. It was danced among other dances when Absentee Shawnee visited the Caddo “to make friends” through gift exchange (1882-1891) (Voegelin). 

  2. The Shawnee and many other tribes of central Oklahoma have these night social dances or “stomp dances” in summer. Shawnee say this form of dance, with leader shouting and no drum or gourd rattles used, is borrowed from the Creeks (Voegelin). 

MLA Source Citation:

Parsons, Elsie Clews. Notes on the Caddo, Memories of the American Anthropological Association. Supplement to American Anthropologist, Volume 43, No. 3, Part 2. 1921. Web. 29 January 2015. - Last updated on Nov 30th, 2014


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