Yuchi Dancing

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Fig. 41. Feather Attachment of Wand
Fig. 41. Feather Attachment of Wand

On this, the second night, about six of the before-mentioned dances were performed. Although the general characteristics and functions of the dances have been described in the last chapter, a few of the peculiarities will be given again according to the actual cases as observed on both ceremonial occasions.

All of the Yuchi dances were this night performed around the fire in the center of the square. The movement was from right to left, contra-clockwise. The steps of the dancers were short, the motion being chiefly in the leg below the knee. In general effect the dance steps look more like shuffling. The foot, being brought down flat, gives forth a sound earning for the dance the name of Stamp, or Stump Dance, among the whites.

Male dancers held their arm nearest the fire, the left level, with their heads and the head slightly drooped, as they said, to protect their faces from the heat and glare of the fire. The true explanation of this is probably different, but is lost in obscurity. Women never assume this posture. Their arms were always at their sides when dancing, and their feet were never raised far from the ground. Motions were constantly made, as in the Buzzard dance when the arms of the performers were lowered and raised after the manner of a buzzard’s wings.

On a tree at one side near the edge of the square a space of several feet of bark had been peeled off. Here a lot of red paint of mixed clay and grease had been smeared, and this was a source of supply for those who wished to daub themselves or renew their facial designs. Nearly all men wore the design of their society painted on their faces. Some were only promiscuously smeared with red and black.

In the nature of ornaments most of the men of the town wore white heron feather tremblers attached to their hats throughout the first few days. (PI. VII, Figs. 7, 8.) These feathers, gehwané, were shaved halfway up the quill to make them a little top heavy. The base is wound in the end of a wire spring about six inches long. The motions of the dancers impart a lively waving backward and forward to these feathers. As far as could be ascertained they were purely ornamental. Some dancers wore bunches of red, black, blue and white feathers in their hat bands. All wore their best clothes in the dances. The women, some of them, were decorated with a metal comb in the back of their hair, from which hung varicolored ribbons reaching nearly to the ground. In moving about, the wind carried these streamers out horizontally behind, producing a very pretty effect.

During the dances the town chief did not take part, but sat stolidly in his seat, in the west lodge, facing the square-ground and dancers. From time to time he gave a loud whoop or cry of encouragement and generally joined in the whoop at the end of the dance stanzas.

The dance songs were generally long, and divided into cantos. After each song or canto the leader whooped, the goconé echoed the cry and the dance circle broke up until the leader started the next canto. At the end of each song dancers imitated the cry of the animal named by the dance. The leader always knew the song and carried the air, the other dancer furnishing the chorus. Only the male dancers sang. Some of them carried fans of turkey buzzard or eagle tails. When a leader carried one of these fans he passed it to another man when he wished him to lead the next dance. A specimen of fan, made apparently of a buzzard’s tail, is shown in PI. VII, Fig. 9. The feather attachment is very simple, the quills being perforated and fastened side by side-with a string of yarn strung through them transversely in two places.

A few of the dances observed during the ceremonies will now be described more in detail. Some of the song syllables were also obtained and are given in part. In such song burdens the part sung by the leader is given on the same line as that sung by the chorus of dancers, the two being separated by a space. Some of these dance songs were obtained from Laslie Cloud a Creek who claimed that both the Yuchi and the Creeks of his town, Taskigi, held them in common.

The Feather Dance, lakané cti, until lately took place only at the ceremony of the Polecat settlement of the Yuchi. It was a daylight dance and occurred on the second day. It was performed before taking the emetic and again afterwards. The account of it was obtained from several informants.

There were four leaders, two abreast, the first two holding feather sticks, having six white heron’s feathers attached to the end, one in each hand. (See PI. VII, Figs. 5, 6 and Fig. 41.) The next two shook hand rattles. The dancers formed in line two abreast and came running (dancing) sunwise toward a pile of earth, where the sweepings from the square were piled in a heap at the eastern side of the square sometimes to a height of three and one-half feet. Facing the sun they leaped over the pile as they reached it. Should anyone fail to make the leap or fall or drop anything while leaping he was seized by the four yatcigi’ and taken to the creek where he was ducked before he could return to the square or pick up anything that he had dropped. The staffs of the yatcigi’ were also decorated with white feathers for this dance.

This dance symbolized the journey of the sun over the square-ground the Sun deity was believed to be closely watching the dance from above. Should it not be properly enacted he was likely to stop in his course, according to the belief. The Feather Dance was known also as the Corn Dance.

The Gun Dance

The Gun Dance was called Yätea’ cti. This dance was said to be chiefly for pleasure, but it had some reference to the spirits dominating weapons and was believed to increase their effectiveness. It was performed at night by the Sand Creek town, and during the daytime by the Polecat settlement. The dancers held their firearms in the right hand. At the end of each song, (a), (6), (c), all were discharged toward the ground and the dancers whooped. The song is

(a) haigó didi wédidi, yáeeya,
(repeated a number of times).

(b) helé helé maya, gówcna,
(repeated a number of times).

(c) waígeto waeaye, héya,
(repeated a number of times).

The Duck Dance

The Duck Dance, Cane cti, was another in which it was sought to win the favor of the supernatural guardians of game. An element of thanks is said to have been recognized in these animal dances. The dancers held hands winding around in circles and figures behind the leader, in single file. Men and women joined in promiscuously. The leader carried a hand rattle, and drumming also accompanied it. A band of visiting Shawnee joined in this dance with the Yuchi in 1904, arranging themselves so as to alternate in the file with Yuchi dancers. The songs were, in part,

(a) ye’ha yáleno, wehe yáehcya,
(repeated a number of times).
yagwe’ háe, a ery in imitation of the duck, given at end of
the song ; then hañk, hañk, hañk rapidly.
(6) we’he yáheya, áheya wáeheya,
(repeated a number of times).
(Repeat cries as above.)

Horse Dance

The Horse Dance, Ba’tä’ cti, had no unusual features. It was of the general typo described. At the end of each song all the dancers grunted like stallions.

(a) yahó gAni yá, súnaga,
(repeated a number of times).
yahó gAni yá,
(b) yahówe ya, yálege,
(repeated a number of times).
(c) hiyáyahó, he’leua,
(repeated a number of times).

The dancers whinnied like stallions four times.

Buzzard Dance

In the Buzzard Dance, Yanti’ cti, the dancers waved their anus like the wings of a buzzard. At the end of each song all bent over, spat, and hissed like buzzards disgorging food. It was said to indicate bad breath and bad taste in the mouth. Sometimes the motion of the arms was slow, with the palms of hands turned down; sometimes it was fast, as in song (c). This was a totemic dance.

(a) yahólcha, yagowe’ee,
(repeated a number of times).
(b) tawaya, hele’,
(repeated a number of times),
(c) hánewáyahe ,
(repeated a number of times).
(d) su’li wáya he,
(repeated a number of times).
(e) he’ya yowe’, hAnne’,
(repeated a number of times).
nóhaya,
(arms raised high and slowly waved) .

Rabbit Dance

The Rabbit Dance, Cadjwané cti, is another of the common type dances. The dancers held their left arm crooked between their faces and the fire. They began by squealing like rabbits. It was also a totemic dance.

(a) yohólena, yohóe oe hA’,
(repeated a number of times).
(c) wa háyo na,
(repeated a number of times).
(d) yohólena,
(repeated a number of times).
(4) wäháyona’
(repeated a number of times).

Fish Dance

The Fish Dance was called Cucpá cti. Pike Dance, or Cudjeá, Catfish Dance. The dancers waved their arms at their sides like the fins of a fish.

Four whoops; wore given at the beginning. The Fish Dance was totemie also. This dance was quite an important one. There was much more stamping and shouting in it than in the others.

hóyale hóyale, yo-hu-u-ho,[1]
(shouted out and accompanied by stamping).
ye-he-ho, yáleha,
(stamping, sin lu ted).
yo-u-u-ho,
(shouted, with violent stamping).

Leaf Dance

The Leaf Dance, Yacá cti, was rather graceful in effect. The dancers waved their hands imitating leaves blown by the wind. In this dance the grateful shade of the summer foliage is recognized by the people as a blessing. I was told that several women carried the hand rattle in the Leaf Dance. The song was as follows and was sung four times with a great deal of repetition of the different parts. The repetitions were very rapid and seemed quite irregular toward the end.

wahi yone’ heya’
(repeated a number of times).
hegae yone’ heya’
(repeated a number of times).
hodji gä yo,
(repeated a number of times).

Shawnee Dance

The Shawnee Dance, Yonctá cti, is said to have been borrowed from the neighboring Shawnee, with whom the Yuchi are very intimate. It is a very picturesque and animated dance, indeed, a general favorite. Only the drum is used, one man beating it while several others sing. A line of women filed out from one comer of the square holding hands, led by a Shawnee girl beautifully dressed. Very soon the men from the different lodges came in between each pair of women and took their hands. The whole line of alternating men and women holding hands, then wound round and about the square-ground imitating the movements of a serpent. The song syllables as remembered, consisted of ya na na we hé repeated over and over. At intervals announced by a whoop the dancers all faced right about and continued in that way until the next whoop.

Buffalo Dance

The Buffalo Dance, Wedingá cti, was an important one. The dances held sticks in their hands. Formerly they wore buffalo robes on their backs and the stuffed skins of the buffalo’s head over their shoulders. The dancers held their arms at their sides with the sticks clinched in their fists. Their bodies were bent stiffly forward and they grunted like buffaloes. The first three songs only are given. First the leader sang a part, then the chorus, then all joined in the cry yâ yâ iho’, or grunted.

(a) he’ yalena, (repeated a number of times) ;
(grunting) yâ yâ iho’.
(b) náwa yahá hele, heyo howiya,
(repeated a number of times).
yâ yâ iho’ (cry).
(c) hyó lena hyó lena hi’ , hyaivd hele,
(repeated a number of times).
yâ yâ iho’ (cry).

Chicken Dance

In the Chicken Dance, Wetced’cti, the men and women held hands side by side, marching two abreast. Men were allowed liberties with the persons of their partners because they were imitating cocks. The singing in this appeared to be more in unison.

(a) yágowi hole ha,
yahóleha yagowiei’,
(repeated a number of times).
(b) hegowi yahoya nale he gowiei’,
yale’hoya hánawiyeeé’ ,
(repeated a number of times).
(c) he’yahe nohe,
he’nayanadawiya,
(repeated a number of times).

Owl Dance

In the Owl Dance, Kyän’ cti, there was the same form in dancing as in the Chicken Dance, but no liberties were allowed. In this each song was much repeated throughout. The accent was too varied to record.

(a) aheyowana ha.
(b) yowale yowalehe.
(c) hayodje hae age.
(d) hayowana hayodjce haeage.
(e) tawayahele.

Crazy Dance

The Crazy or Drunken Dance, Tscbcnbenen’ cti, was the last to be performed before daybreak of the second and last night of the ceremonies.

In character it was extremely obscene, as well as in words of the songs. The leaders frequently composed parts which they sang. They were given in these to ridiculing others. The commonest words seem to have been, “I am drunk; I want whiskey.” The more self respecting women often refused to join in it, as temporary alliances were understood to result from intimacy between the sexes on this occasion. The men whinnied like stallions or mules as signals. The close of the last song was uproarious, being followed by general debauchery. Spectators were also sharers in the latter.

The whiskey, invoked in the words of the song, was considered a divine inflatus; the opinion of the Yuchi in regard to it seems to be analogous to the esteem in which the mescal or peyote is held among the western and southwestern tribes. There is, in fact, some reason to believe that the mescal worship may spread among the Yuchi if it continues eastward, as it has already gained a foothold among the conservative Pawnees and Osages.

The liberality of the Yuchi religious sentiment is seen in the manner in which dances have been invented for the worship of acculturated objects, like the cow, chicken, firearms, etc., which they did not know in early times. Constant borrowing has also taken place between the Yuchi and their neighbors, the Creeks, Shawnees and others. During the second night of the ceremonies visitors from other tribes were expected to perform some of their dances, which from all outward appearances belonged to the Yuchi ritual and were joined in by the Yuchi as well as by visitors. The goconé always extended the invitations to outsiders when their dances were desired.

Third Day. – After the all-night dancing at the end of the second night, which was concluded by the Crazy or Drunken Dance, the town folk disbanded. Those who lived at a distance went home to sleep and rest. Sometimes a few young people lingered about the square during these days, engaged in social intercourse or games.

Fourth Day. – The fourth day was spent at home in much the same way as the previous one.

Fifth Day. – On the fifth day the townsfolk assembled at the square again, as on the first day.

Sixth Day. – On the sixth day at noon another feast was prepared and eaten on the square. This meal consisted of meat.

The whole of the following night was given over to dancing and revelry like that of the second night.

Seventh Day. – On the seventh day the ceremonial gathering was at an end, and all dispensed for the last time. The new year was now begun with a clean record, civilly and religiously, for the whole town. These continued days of assembly were held in 1905 with an unusual manifestation of interest, as the chiefs had decided not to hold the ceremonies another year.

At other times of the year dancing took place at gatherings, but they were regarded as entirely informal. Attendance on the part of the men was not compulsory at such times.

In concluding this account of the ceremonies of the Yuchi a few words might be said in the way of comparison with the rites and beliefs of surrounding culture areas. The new fire rite, which was commonly found throughout the Southeast, has analogies in other regions. Nearly all occurrences of this kind, however, are found in the southern portion of the continent. A new fire rite was prominent in Mexico,[2] and among the Pueblo tribes of the Southwest.[3]

The idea of the town shrine also strongly suggests the sacred altars of the Southwestern tribes and the shrines or altars concerned in the ceremonies of the tribes of the Plains. In all of these altar from the Southwest, across the Plains to the Southeast a common element is to be found in the symbolic painting or color representations on the ground.

As regards the ceremonies of scarification and the taking of the emetic we again find a specialization, in the Southeast, of these features which are, however, widely distributed westward and southward. The scratching operation regarded as a form of torture has distant analogies among nearly all the tribes of the Plains, where the Sun Dance was performed. The emetic ceremony, found prominently in nearly every southeastern tribe, is also traceable across the Plains to the Southwest.[4] A difference is to be noted in the character of the public communal ceremonies as we go from east to west. In the Southeast every male in the town is a participant in them and must undergo every rite. On the Plains certain individuals only undergo the torture and the priests of the ceremony take the emetic. Again in the Southwest the ceremonies are performed characteristically by the priests, who alone take the emetic. There are besides a number of similarities in detail between the rites of the Plains, the Southeast and Southwest. Considering the matter as a whole, we are led, provisionally, to the opinion that, as regards ceremonials, a great deal of similarity characterizes the Southern area of North America extending in a sort of zone from the Atlantic along the Gulf and thence westward and southward to what may have been their center of distribution.

Footnotes

   (↵ returns to text)

  1. The hyphen denotes emphasis and arrested voice.
  2. The Mexican new fire ceremony at the beginning of each cycle is given in Die Culturvölker Alt-Amerikas, Dr. Gustav Büihl, New York, Cincinnati, St. Louis, 1875-87, pp. 237, 412.
  3. Cf. Fewkes, in American Anthropologist, N. S.. Vol. 2, p. 138, for a discussion of the distribution of this rite.
  4. Cf . Dorsey, The Arapaho Sun Dance, Field Columbian Museum , Publication No. 7.5, Chicago, 1903; also The Cheyenne, same series. No. 103, p. 164, where dancers cause themselves to vomit near the end of the ceremony; also Dorsey, Mythology of the Wichita, Carnegie Institution, Wash., 1904, p. 16, where priests in ceremony take emetic. I was also informed that the Comanche cerebrated a rite before the season’s first corn was eaten in which, during the performance of a round dance, all the villagers took an emetic brewed from a certain plant. See also Stevenson, The Sia Indians, Eleventh Report Bureau American Ethnology, 1894, p. 87; Voth, Oraibi Summer Snake Ceremony, Field Columbian Museum, Pub. No. 83, p. 347; Dorsey and Voth, Mishongnovi Ceremonies, same series, No. 66, pp. 159-261; Fewkes, Tusayan Snake and Flute Ceremonies, Nineteenth Report Bureau American Ethnology, 1900, p. 976.



MLA Source Citation:

Add after new site opens. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 31 March 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/yuchi-dancing.htm - Last updated on Jul 9th, 2013


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