Men's Grass Dance
The Grass Dance was originally a sacred ritual that was part of a long and complex ceremony performed by warrior societies among various tribes of the plains. There is more than one version of the origin of the Grass Dance. Versions of its origin differ throughout various locations in Canada and the United States.
In some regions, First Nations people believe that the Grass Dance is a healing dance. In this interpretation, a grass dancer was called upon to perform his dance in a ceremonial healing a long time ago. The healing was intended to doctor a sick child who was too weak to move. It was the ability and strong belief of his dance that enabled the grass dancer to render such a healing.
Another version of the origin of the Grass Dance is that the grass dancers were called out to the place where feasts and special events were to take place. The dancers blessed the ground while they danced in time with the beat of the drum. While the grass dancers danced, they flattened the grass with their feet in preparation for the ceremonies to take place.
The general agreement in bother version of the origins is that the Grass Dance is a ceremonial dance.
Long ago, the dancers wore outfits that were made solely with the materials that were naturally available such as grass, porcupine quills and hair. Contemporary grass dancers still incorporate some of these items. But now, dancers have added brightly coloured fringe made of ribbons or yarn, elaborate beadwork and bells to their outfits.
The outfits of grass dancers today consist of a belt, cuffs, headband and harness with a porcupine roach which adorns two eagle feathers or a set of plumes.
Each outfit is designed to move with and enhance the motions of the dancer. The dancer moves his hips, arms, head and shoulders in harmony with the movement of his legs and dance steps. Dancers attempt to imitate nature, resembling the gentle swaying of grass on a windy day. Grass dancers must display balance, endurance, coordination and gracefulness. All movements are done both on the left and right sides.
Pow Wows today classify the Grass Dance into two categories: old style and free style. The old style of Grass Dance is further divided into the American old style and Canadian old style. However, many grass dancers maintain that the dance is the same and varies only by individual interpretation.
Source: Saskatchewan Indian, June 1997 Special Powwow Issue v27 n02 p17.