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Article: §IYO WA¢IÖI: The Prairie Chicken Dances

By living in close association with nature, the Dakota/Nakota/Lakota people learned much about the habits of animal life forms and birds. They observed them very carefully, because they taught them many things. Birds were admired for their keen senses and virtues, such as industriousness, kindness, affection, pride and their very graceful movements, which our people appreciated.

Most people think that humans were the first to dance, but this is not so. The animal life forms and birds have always danced, as part of their courting process. Birds in particular, have an excellent sense of rhythm and time. It is best demonstrated in the daybreak dances of the male prairie chicken, to honour the hens. The dances are as well organized and orderly, as any human can hope to organize. A number of the birds will assemble, and form a circle with the leader in the centre. Then the circle will begin moving to the right. Each bird steps at the same time and speed. With each step, they make a sound, similar to the double beat of a drum. Every bird carries a rattle, his tail. The feathers of the tail, are rubbed together in such a way, to make the sound of a rattle. Their timing is perfect, the feet, voices and tails all moving at the same time. It is a spectacular sight, to see a hundred or more prairie chickens dancing.

In appreciation and respect, the Dakota/Lakota people imitate the prairie chicken's dance. It is customary for the men, to sit on the north side of the dance arbour, because the dance is to honour the women. The older women sit on the north side, and the younger women make a circle in the centre of the dancing area, leaving the centre open for the men to dance. During the dance, the women move rhythmically up and down in beat with the drum, imitating the clucking sound of a female prairie chicken. The dance leader, starts the "Katukatuk dance", by dancing through the circle of the younger women. Once in the centre, he begins to strut and dance around the inner circle, acting like a male prairie chicken. After making several rounds, he dances out of the inner circle, to where the older women are sitting, making a guttural sound, similar to the prairie chicken, "g-g-g-u-u-ih" . He dances back into the inner circle, making several rounds, before dancing out and returning to the other men. Each man takes his turn, dancing in this manner.

After each man has had his turn, the dance leader and another, will once again, dance into the inner circle. The tempo of the drum is increased, and the antics of the dancers become more amusing. They shake their heads, shoulders, and stamp their feet rapidly, while glaring at each another. Sometimes, they quiver and shake all over. Occasionally, they jump up into
the air, make a half turn and glare at each other, or they jump up together in a sham battle. Their antics make everyone laugh.

This dance is enjoyed by everyone, and performed often in the spring, to give thanks for having safely survived the winter, and as a prayer for abundance. Our Nakota relatives, have also done the "prairie chicken dance" , but they have their own way of dancing. Today, §iyo Wa©iöi is no longer danced among the Dakota/Nakota/Lakota people. However, movements from the dance have been kept alive in the "ruffle dance", which is done on occasion, by the men's fancy dancers at the contemporary pow-wows.