If you have ever been to a pow-wow or seen an exhibition of Native American culture, you have probably admired the dancers and their beautiful regalia (traditional clothing). Although each tribe has its own unique dances, traditional clothing, and other special practices, there are some women’s dance traditions that are seen widely across the USA such as shawl dancing and jingle dress dancing.
Since jingle dresses are so beautiful and unique, I thought I would share a bit more about them to start our celebration of Native American Heritage Month.
How Did Jingle Dress Dancing Begin?
The original tradition of the jingle dress is from the Ojibwa people. It is said that an elderly man had a daughter who was sick. He had tried every way he knew to heal her. At last, he slept and dreamed one night and was told to make his daughter a dress of jingles. This was how she would be healed. The man listened and created this unique dress and it healed his child!
The first jingle dresses were very plain (like the brown one seen here from the Museum of History in Missouri) and the dance done at that time was very quiet and solemn. It was considered something sacred and it was done slowly and with great respect.
As time went on, the tradition grew in popularity and the design of the jingle dress and the footwork associated with it changed. Modern jingle dresses are often bright and colorful and are cut to accommodate fancier dance moves such as turning full circles, dancing backward and crossing the feet.
You can see some of those modern dresses and fancy dance moves here.
What Are The Jingles?
What are the cones that jingle on a jingle dress? They are actually made from the gold or silver metal tops of tobacco containers. These tops are pressed flat then rolled into cones. The cones are sewn onto a cloth dress. As the young girl or the woman dances, the cones strike each other making a beautiful percussion sound that becomes part of the rhythm of the dance.
In most Native American communities – everyone dances. From the youngest child to the oldest member of the community, everyone who is able finds a way to make it into the dance ring. It’s an honor to dance and a relative will often make your special regalia for you. For many young people, dancing is also competitive. There are often contests at pow-wows for specific dance categories, such as fancy dance, shawl dance or jingle dress.
If You Visit A Pow-Wow – Can You Dance, Too?
If you’ve seen a public notice of a pow-wow then the event is open to anyone (some pow-wows are closed community-only events). Guests at a public pow-wow can often participate in specific dances during the event. The best way to know what to do is to listen to the pow-wow’s Master of ceremonies (MC) carefully. He’ll tell you when there’s a special dance that invites children or adults into the dance ring.
Where Can You Find Jingles?
Are you intrigued by this tradition and want to find jingles or see more styles of jingle dress regalia? The best source is the Crazy Crow Native Trading Post.
Welcome to our fourth annual celebration of Native American Heritage Month! All month long we’ll be sharing posts about sharing these rich cultures with kids. Find our full schedule of posts below, and don’t forget to link up your own as well! We’re also having a giveaway (details coming soon!) Don’t miss our series from last year, 2015, and 2014, plus you can find even more ideas on our Native/Indigenous Cultures Pinterest board:
Tiny Tapping Toes on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Jingle Dress Dancing
Crafty Moms Share
La Clase de Sra. DuFault
All Done Monkey
Creative World of Varya
Native American Heritage Month Giveaway
From MotherTongues: Himdag T-shirt, women’s or unisex, S-XL, US/Canada Shipping Only
From Abrams Books: Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl, Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, Buffalo Bird Girl, In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse, and The Star People, US/Canada Shipping Only
From Wisdom Tales Press: Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days, Indian Boyhood: The True Story of an Indian Upbringing, Whispers of the Wolf, Horse Raid: The Making of a Warrior, US Shipping Only
From Penguin Kids: I Am Sacagawea, US Shipping Only
From Quarto: Path to the Pacific, US Shipping Only
From Kid World Citizen: Machu Pichu Lesson Plan (English and Spanish versions)
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