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Pihewisimowin (The Prairie Chicken Dance Ceremony)

Pat Deiter

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      POWWOW ISSUE 1999      v29 n02 p14  
This is a very old dance still practiced by our people who live in the Battleford area. The ceremony is held in a long lodge, and begins with a special form of prayer known as the Pipe Ceremony. Following the ceremony, the man who pledges the dance, begins by singing his songs to the accompaniment of a rattle, while the others follow his lead.

The dance is considered to have a strong spiritual meaning. The sponsor of the ceremony may have received instructions to do so in a dream, or he may have vowed to hold the dance, in exchange for the long life of a sick child.

Dancers take their place in a circle formed around two fires. They move slowly around the circle, while mimicking the actions of a prairie chicken. Throughout the night, other men serve each guest. The men who have never taken part before, are required to give gifts. This is practiced in all social dances to obtain the right to participate, but this is the only vowed ceremony where gifts are given in such a manner. These gifts are given to elders, who in turn, give prayers for the dancers. An offering to the spirits is also given, and is tied to the poles of the lodge.

The dancers observed at Frog Lake in 1928, danced stationary, and danced at night. They had a dog feast afterwards. The Cree from Hobbema, Alberta, also practiced this dance. The ceremony varies only slightly from the Battleford dance, but their regalia are unique. David Mandelbaum reported the Hobbema people wearing a fringed leather shirt and an eagle cap, which was passed to each dancer, as his turn to dance came up. The singers were accompanied by a hand drum, beaten in a lively rhythm. Our people wear their common ceremonial dance attire, and a bustle of prairie chicken feathers.

from, Dancer of the Northern Plains,
Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre, 1987