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Lemhi Pass > Culture > Annual Festival Dances

Excerpts from "Dances evolve from dreams, ceremony or appreciating life"
By Sara Wea Irwin
Sho-Ban News Festival Edition, August 2002
Lori Edmo Suppah, editor

Lemhi dancer
Photo by Kel Ariwite

Dancing has always been a part of Native American culture. Many tribes have their different interpretations of the stories and meanings, families and individuals also have their own and there are special reasons why they do certain things.

Many dances start from dreams, ceremony, and the feeling, which comes from appreciating life. These dances are translated in the Shoshone language next to their English terms.

Grand Entry
Is the first song sung to bring in the dancers beginning with the veterans, or warriors of the tribe that dance the flags into the arena. The royalty follow that are chosen representatives for their people and families. Afterwards, the elders dance followed by each category and the youth bring in the tail.

War Dance/ Men's Traditional Dance dasa'yeegwipe.

This dance originated from long ago when members of the tribe would tell about their experiences on the battlefield by dancing it out. The story would tell how a battle was won, mimicking how a certain deed was accomplished. So, each dancer dances their own dance style.

Women's Traditional Dance wa'ai pe'an nekape
This is done by the women of the tribe, young and old, to show pride and how a woman should walk in beauty. The Southern traditional story is similar, and is related to a woman who lost her child and is looking for that child, with a shawl on her arm to warm the lost child when he or she is found.

Men's Fancy Dance
This is a fast paced dance stemming off of the men's traditional war dance. It is a contemporary dance with the arena as the battlefield. This dance is a competition with trick songs that the dancer must always keep in beat with in order to win.

Women's Fancy Shawl / Butterfly Dance
This dance is related to a story from a woman who mourned the loss of her husband and closed herself off to all her loved ones and wrapped herself into a cocoon. When she finally came out she was renewed and ready to live and rejoice. This dance is a metaphor to the butterfly.

Prairie Chicken Dance - Shake Dance neetoonoono'hi
This dance is a dance imitating the sage hen. During the mating season this bird can be seen doing a dance ruffling it's feathers and turning circles. This dance represents new start of life.

Owl Dance nagwabahnekape
Is a social dance for couples with the women choosing a partner. If the man refused to dance, an old custom says that he must give her a token of money in replacement. The couples dance holding each other and turning small circles at different intervals as they dance in a larger circle.

Rabbit Dance gammu nekape
This is done in honor of the rabbit, because they were used as food and their fur was used for blankets, clothing and shoes.

Background image courtesy Sho-Ban News