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Shawnee Dances



Shawnee Dance Names



See the entry for "Shawnee Ritual" on the  Culture menu for a detailed discussion of Shawnee Ritual (In Preparation).


As with other Indian Nations, Shawnee ritual was expressed most publically in their dances.  The Shawnee ritual year opened with the Spring Bread Dance and closed with the Fall Bread Dance.  Some Shawnee groups had a Green Corn Dance, but it was not the beginning of the ritual year as in other northeastern or southeastern woodland groups. It was rather related to the first ripening of the corn in early summer.  In keeping with its basic subsistence pattern of hunting and gathering, the Shawnee moons were related to this aspect of their annual cycle rather than to planting, weeding and harvesting of the maize crop.


This data is primarily that of Erminie-Wheeler Voegelin, with reference to Morgan and the Prophet.


Excerpt from letter by Carl and Erminie Voegelin, date July 1934:

?We are enclosing a list of Shawnee dances, with those for 1) amusement and the 2) ceremonial rounds for the Absentee Shawnee, comprising the Thawigila, Kispoko and Pekuwi divisions located between Shawnee and Norman, Okla., [vicinity of Little Axe] and the Cherokee or loyal Shawnee, comprising the Chalaka?a division located around White Oak, Okla., and now incorporated with the Cherokee.  The Eastern Shawnee, which was composed largely of the Mekoche division and a few survivors of which still live on the Shawnee reservation in NE Oklahoma around Miami, gives neither night dances nor ceremonial dances at present, although they formerly used to.  In historic times at least until they were intimately associated with the Seneca, and it may be that mekodja or the ?Eastern Shawnee? were the only ones to use the False faces and Kshkuck faces, instead of the Loyal Shawnee.  This whole matter needs a little more clearing up?.Information on the formation for the various dances is not, as you will notice, complete by any means.  We are still working on this.?



EWV = Erminie-Wheeler Voegelin with a cover letter letter to Frank Speck, signed by Carl and Erminie Voegelin.  572.97 Sp3 in the Frank G. Speck Papers, APS III. Northeast, E.  Miscellaneous Tribes, 2. Shawnee, c. Shawnee Dances (Freeman Guide, 3649).  CFV undoubtedly did the eliciting of the terms and EWV the ethnological descriptions.  The cover letter is dated July 15, 1934 at 332 Kickapoo St., Shawnee, Oklahoma.


Invaluable as well are dances listed by Lewis Henry Morgon during his fieldwork in Kansas among the Shawnee in 1859-60.  His source was Blue Jacket. The Shawnee Prophet, in Shawnee Traditions by Trowbridge (1824) lists some dances as well. In the discussion of Shawnee ritual, James H. Howard's contributins to Shawnee Ceremonialism, in Shawnee!, will be fully utilized.





Notes & Commentary

1.  Ceremonial Dances. Held in the daytime.

April / presently May


Spring Bread Dance:



(Absentee and Cherokee Shawnee in Oklahoma)

EWV: takhwanekaawe; Morgan: Daquanakawa??This is used in spring and fall to obtain a good spring and before they use green corn. "

EWV: ?This opened the dance and the ritual calendar.  It involved a 4-day hunt by 12 selected men, the making of several hundred loaves of bread by 12 selected women during the same 4 days; dancing for a solid afternoon.  A set number of dancers, some men and women together, others in which the women danced alone, was gone through?.?

Pumpkin Dance:



EWV: Waapikonekaawe (Morgan: Wapekonakawa).


EWV: ??the last dance to be danced before the evening prayer was given and the bread and meat distributed?This dance was never included in the night dances; night dances could be held any time after the Spring Bread Dance, and are frequently held every Saturday night after this. Morgan says of it: ?Much like bread dance with singing a little different." Men and women.

Early June


Putting Away of the ball



(Absentee and Cherokee Shawnee in Oklahoma)

A ceremonial occasion, but no daytime dance.

EWV: ?End of ball games.  A night dance of amusement held at this time.

Early August


War Dance:



(Absentee Shawnee)

EWV: hileniwokaawe 'men's dance or war dance'; Morgan: gives two War Dances: 1) Hikhekawa? ?Before setting out. Men alone?; The return war dance may be the one the Prophet called ?Petheekausenauwaa Kauwaakauwena?.

EWV: Involves a day of dancing.  Full moon, September or October. NWS: The war dances were formerly danced before a war party set out and after they return.  The Prophet  describes this as follows: ? ?This is a war dance. It is confined to men alone, who danc e in a group, to the music of a drum and song? and ?The war dance always precedes their departure from the village and the leader declares to h is followers the general order of march, the plan of attack &c. but no feast is held until they approach the enem -- when the young hunters procure twelve deer, which are roasted a night, and on the following marning they partake.  At this feast the leader addresses them & enforces the necessity of vigilance, activity & courage, commonly using such arguments as these ??My brothers! ? The Enemy is at hand.  We must fight.  Retreat would b e disgraceful.  We shall conquer if we are brave.  The water will wash them away, the wind will blow them down, darkness will come upon them, & the eart h will cover them.  Let us go forward together & we shall succeed.? Howard notes the association of the colorful "Ride-in" parade that precedes the War Dance.

2) Hilenhenakawa?

?Dance on return.  It signifies the dance of the braves.?

This would be the one described by the Prophet as follows: ?Then one of the Peace Chiefs enters the Council House with a drum & a gourd, and having declared the custom of their forefathers to dance on such occasions, he begins to beat the drum and sing the War song.  The Warriors join the dance, being stripped almost naked and at ength become entirely so, dancing at intervals among the crows of women that attend, who quickly disperse at sight of so much obscenity as is evinced in their appearance and gestures.  This dance continues from the time of their arrival, which is always in the morning, until night, and at intervals of cessation during the day each of the warriors strikes a post which is placed in the circle, and recounts his feats of bravery in that or other battles in which he has been engaged.  After the dance is ended the warriors repose themselves in the Council House and on t he following morning they are addressed by the chief, and directed to remain at the House for the period of four days, during which time they drink strong decoctions of medicinal roots, prepared for them, and abstain from eating more food thatn is absolutely necessary f or their comfortable subsistence.  At the expirat ion of the four days they  separate & return to their families.?

Early August or Late July


Green Corn Feast:




(Cherokee Shawnee only.)

Morgan: New Corn Dance, Ne-pen-a-ka-wa??used at the Green Corn Festival.  Men and Women in both of these.?

See BUFFALO DANCE under dances for amusement following. The Green Corn Feast followed in a day by the


Week before Fall Bread Dance


False Face & Shuck Face Performances:



(Cherokee Shawnee only.)

pathhaka ?false faces?; mamowhoethiki ?shuck faces?. Morgan: False Face Dance, Pathkakawakawa.

No longer held in 1934.  Morgan: ?Dance with false faces and by men alone."



Fall Bread Dance:



(Absentee and Cherokee Shawnee)

EWV: takhwanekaawe; Prophet: ?Tuhkoakaawaa? is a dance performed by women. It is danced for amusement only.  This peculiarity and the custom of the women to  join the man in singing are its only characteristics. The dancers form a line, fronting the man who sings, and they join him in singing a kind of prelude, which continues some minutes, when they commence, the man singing alone, and dance around in a circular manner.?

EWV: ?Season for all dances closes with this, a night dance of amusement following the same evening of the Bread Dance and being the last such until the next spring.?; ?A night dance follows immediately after dark on the same day that the Bread Dance is danced; this closes the season for night dances of amusement.  No dances given after that until the Spring Bread Dance.?


2.  Dances for Amusement.

    EWV:  Held at night, from about 10 p.m.-5 a.m. in ceremonial enclosure, around a fire in the center of the enclosure.  Referred to popularly by Absentee Shawnee as ?Stomp Dances?; by the Cherokee or Loyal Shawnee as ?Call Dances?, but older consultants say the whole night?s dance should properly be called merely a ?dance?.  The Eastern Shawnee no longer hold these dances, their members having dwindled so considerably.  All dances, lead and drum, had from 12-40 songs for it.?

Buffalo Dance or Cow Dance:



EWV: m?thoothekaawe. Morgan, Buffalo Dance, Mthothakawe? Men and women.  Used at any time.

EWV: ?Formerly given in daytime, in spring [Bread Dance]; now incorporated in the night amusement dances.  Drum and singer.  Men start the dances: men follow each other in single file with leader at head, dancing around fire (always counter-clockwise).  Women join dance, following women leader in a circle outside the men?s circle, also going counterclockwise.  The drummer or someone helping him sings, trying to describe in the songs the characteristics of the buffalo: ?his acts are all imitated in rhyme?.  Some dancers make appropriate motions as songs refer to these motion; others ignore it.

Bear Dance:



EWV:  m?kwekaawe; Morgan: Mquakawa.  Men and women.  Used in Bread Dance.?

EWV: ?Drum and songs used.  Men  start, dancing in single file around fire counterclockwise; women join, also dancing counterclockwise outside the circle of men.

Turkey Dance, Fowl Dance, Chicken Dance:



EWV: peleewekaawe ?Fowl Dance or Chicken Dance'; Morgan: Turkey Dance, Palawakawa.

EWV:  ?Chicken or Fowl dance.  1) Drummer starts drumming; begins to sing and invites women to come.  Women gather around facing singer; they sing at same time as  singer.  Men sit around looking on.  3 or 4 songs are sung.  Then 2) Singer announces time has come for women to choose partners.  Women go over to men and each woman chooses a man t o dance with, and woman offers to pay him for dance, a handkerchief, trinket, etc.  Man rises, he and his woman partner walk to ring; couples dance facing each other; songs change and they reverse positions.  This reversing of positions is done several times, after a certain number of songs.  The women pay the men, and that ends the first ?climax?.  The entire dance is repeated; women go up to singer, etc. ? the performance as outlined above we can be repeated 4 times, with women paying men 4 separate times.  But now they generally stop at the first ?climax? (w hen woman pays man).

Horse Dance:


EWV: m?sheeweewekaawe; Morgan: Msawawakawa? ?Men and women.  The women stand by the singers and the men trot them into the dance side by side as the go by the singers.  A man can take any woman whether relative or not.

EWV:  Like Chicken dance except men choose and pay their women partners this time.  Starts with women gathering around singer up to certain time; song stops; women stand still; men rise and choose partners; then dance as in [FOWL DANCE], only men pay the fee and choose their partners this time.  After the women have a Chicken dance, t hey usually ask for a horse dance t o get their fee back ? but sometimes a man doesn?t choose the same woman who chose him, and there?s quite a bit of bad feeling aroused.?

Fish Dance:


EWV: namethekaawe; Morgan: Namathakawa? ?Men and Women.  The women enter the dance at their pleasure.  None but a female relative can dance with a man.  A woman not  a relative is not allowed to do so.  This is the Iroquois Fish Dance in form...?

EWV:  ?Drum and songs used.  Men start dancing, facing each other in couples; women stand and look on, choosing t heir partners.  When a woman makes her choice, she steps in, superceding one of the men dancing in the couple.  The superceded man steps out and gets another man a s partner in order to be able to re-enter the dance.  This man and woman couple reverse positions during different parts of the dance, but continuing to face each other throughout the dance.  The circle around the fire.  No pay in this dance.?

Leaf Dance:


EWV: m?shishkiwekaawe;  ?One consultant, a Cherokee Shawnee, trans. this as ?Cabbage Dance?.

EWV: ?Drum and songs. Double file of men dance side by side around fire; two women go behind two men they select as partners, and they continue dancing thus, a man and a woman alternating in each of the two files.?

Ant Dance:


EWV: pakalwethiwekaawe.

Just like LEAF DANCE in formation; at certain change of song the two men turn around to face their two women partners; at another change the en whirl forward and dance facing forward again.

Corn Dance:


EWV: tamiinekaawe; Morgan gives a Corn Dance called Thapatewakawa.

No description.

Women's Dance:


EWV: ikwewikaawe.

EWV: ?Drum and gourd rattle, and songs.  File of women dance without men; face forward in circle around fire; change and turning around toward fire for a few seconds, then face front again. Do this several times. (Where women open a dance, they always have a drum to dance by, and songs; sometimes also a gourd, and the men rarely take part.)

Pigeon Dance:


EWV: pawithekaawe.

EWV: Drum and songs.  Only women take part.  All dance in single file, facing front; then they turn land face each other in couples; then go into single file facing forward again. 

Quail Dance:


EWV: kwikalasothiwekaawe.

No description.

Snake Dance:


EWV: manetowekaawe

Creeks also dance this.  A ?load? dance ? no drum used, but man with gourd rattle stands near fire and rates and sings.  Man leads dance, etc.

Turtle Dance:


EWV: kakilewiikaawe

No description.

Bean Dance:



EWV: skotcithekaawe; Morgan: Mskochethatkawa

No description by EWV; Morgan: ?This is danced with joined hands from the head to the feet of the dance.  Men and women.

Cherokee Dance:


EWV:  katowawekaawe; Morgan: Katowhanakawa? ?Dance of the _____{Morgan?s blank} by women alone.?

EWV: Consultant says ?Not borrowed from Cherokee.?

Alligator Dance:


EWV: m?shkye?teelowekaawe


Catfish Dance:


EWV:  miyalameekwekaawe


Garfish Dance:


EWV: ta?achikoonekaawe.


Stirrup Dance:


EWV: nakalkamowikaawe

EWV:  ? Not danced much now.?

Go-After-By-Canoe Dance:


EWV: naatholetiwekaawe;

No description.

Shake Dance:


EWV: nonomekawe; perhaps Prophet's Moving Dance: Nanimikawena.


Answering-Each-Other Dance:


EWV: kokewe

?A dispute dance between the men and women .?

Coon Dance:


EWV: thepatiwekaawe.

EWV: ?Almost never danced now.?

Hoot-Owl Dance:


EWV: mshimiawewekaawe.

EWV: ?Extinct now.?

Buzzard Dance:


EWV: winashiiwekaawe.

EWV:  ?Spread out arms like buzzard and have peculiar step.  Extinct now.?

Stomp Dance:


EWV: nikanikaawe; Prophet: ?Neekauneekauwaa? The Leading Dance.  This is also  a  dance for amusement, in which the men and women intermingle.  The  leader sings the musick and dances around in a ring, his followers shouting at t he end of the tune or rat her at intervals.?

EWV: ?This is a lead dance, i.e ., men start  it , drum is not used, leader of men dancers sing and other men behind answer him.  A woman with turtle shell leg rattles follows directly behind the leader in some of these lead dances.  There are a variety of ?stomp ? dances, all of which are lead dances; the women alternate with the men in dancing, single file, facing straight ahead, coming into the dance after the men have made 3 or 4 rounds by themselves around the fire. The ?stomp? dances are recognized as having been borrowed by the Shawnee during the last century from the Creeks and Seminoles, who ?do nothing buy stomp dances all night long.??

Osage Dance:


EWV: hashashgiwekaawe.

EWV: ?Not a Shawnee dance, but borrowed from the Osages.?

Quapaw Dance:



EWV: ka?peewekwawe.

EWV: ?Shawnee caught this from the Quapaw after the Civil War.?

|Seneca Dance:


EWV: naatoweewekaawe.

EWV: ?Shawnee dance it sometimes; from Senecas.?

Swan Dance:


EWV: waapethwekaawe; Morgan: Wapathewakawa.

EWV: ?Only women dance; couples hold hands. Drum and songs.?  Morgan gives a different description: ?Men and women.  Two men side by side and occasionally a woman.?

Duck Dance:


EWV: pshishiipekaawe.

No description.

Gourd Dance:


EWV: shi?sgikwan?hekaawe.

EWV: ?Gourd rattles used.?

Shawnee Dance:


EWV: shaawanoowekaawe.

EWV: ?Extinct.  Men and women dance.?

Drunken Dance: