Thursday, July 30, 2015

Indian Ceremonial Dances

The town of Cortez, Colorado has an active cultural center, providing programs of local interest. There is a courtyard with an open area for shows, what looks like a pueblo is actually a painting on the flat side of the building.

I attended a program the other evening featuring typical Ute Indian ceremonial dances. It was a family affair, the father was one of the dancers, the son was on the drum and vocals and his two daughters were also dancers.

The son explained the traditional dress of the dancers. The headdress of the father is made of porcupine quills.  If he had been doing a certain old traditional dance, the object in his right hand would have contained fresh scalps if the U. S. Government had not outlawed the use of scalps. So, they don't do their scalp dance any longer.

The daughter dressed in the flowered dress has on what they call a breastplate, which was used during conflicts to deflect arrows. Since it's made of buffalo bones, it also makes it hard for someone to grab her around the waist. The footwear is typically beaded moccasins.

The younger daughter did a couple dances, one was a very energetic dance called "Butterfly", which included lots of turns and swirls of her fringed cape.

The older daughter did a couple more sedate dances, but were very traditional.  She carried a fan in one hand, and in the other, a Spanish shawl.  The Spanish had quite a bit of influence on the early Indian tribes; as a matter of fact, the family performing the dance had a Spanish last name.
This was a very enjoyable evening, made even better by the Indian Frybread available at the end of the program.  Frybread is dough shaped into a flat circle and then deep fried.   It comes out mostly puffy and you can top it with cinnamon, powdered sugar, honey or salt.  Or all of the above.  It wasn't available, but they also make an Indian Taco by piling on chili beans, meat, salsa, cheese, tomato and sour cream.  All yummy stuff!

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