The History of Blackfoot Dance

  • Spirituality was very important to the Blackfoot. They believed that young men went into the wilderness to be visited by a vision or dream that would give them a protecting spirit for the rest of their life.  Dancing was also a very important part of their spirituality.


  •   Tobacco was burned because it was believed to be a way to reach the  spirits.


  • Their most important ritual was the Sun Dance. This ritual had three or four days of dancing, feasting and religious ceremonies. Part of the ceremony was a test of a young warriors strength and his ability to take pain. His pectoral muscles would be cut and rope would be attached to the muscle.   The other end of the rope was then tied to a centre post of Sun Dance lodge until either the muscle broke or the warrior fainted from pain or exhaustion!


Dancing Today...

  • Today, the Sundance is still practiced.  Some dances have changed from ceremonies to a combination of a dance, celebration, family reunion, and a festival!  Powwows are held all over North America.  Powwows are famous for their beautiful costumes, dances and music. 


  • Most powwows include First Nations people from many nations.  Together they celebrate their native heritage through dance, music, and song.  The dance styles seen at today's powwows come from many different regions of North America.


To learn more about powwows and the different dance styles, please visit these sites.

(*Photos below are from these sites)


Powwow Dance Styles

Men's Buckskin and Women's Traditional

The dancers in this dance dress in their traditional Blackfoot outfits.  The men and women wear white suits and dresses which are decorated with beads.  They also carry eagle feather fans.  The men also wear eagle feather headdresses.  The dancers are usually older people. 


Chicken Dance

Each man wears a porcupine hair roach on his head and a feather bustle.  The dancers step quickly, crouch and rise as they imitate the mating dance of the prairie chickens.

Men's Traditional

The men wear items that would have been work into battle.  The dancers dance out fighting and their victorious return to camp.

Women's Fancy Dance

This dance is also called the Fancy Shawl dance.  It is a dance that comes from the southwestern United States.  It comes from the Navajo.  It is a dance about a young teenager growing into a woman.

Women's Jingle Dance

This dance is about the Anishinabe.  It is a story of the Anishinabe who were sick and dying.  A young girl has a dream that she makes a special dress and helps to heal her people.  By listening to her dream, she helps her people.  The young girls wear a satin dress decorated with tin jingles.







Men's Fancy Dance

This dance is from Oklahoma.  It is a bright and exciting dance and the men are very athletic.  They leap and twirl in this dance.  The bright feathers and tassels flash in the light.

grass dancer

Grass Dance

This dance was originally from the east where the grass was tall.  Young men would trample the grass before setting up camp.  In Blackfoot territory the grass was short so they did not have to trample it before setting up the tipis.  This dance shows how the grass was to be trampled.

grass dancer

Tiny Tots

The children love to participate in dancing.  From a very young age they dress in costumes just like the adults and they also join in the fun!

Inter-Tribal Dance

For this dance, everyone is invited.  This includes everyone from the audience.  You don't even have to be wearing a costume.

  * information courtesy: The Glenbow Museum  

Would you like to see some videos of powwow dancing?  Click here to see some video clips of a powwow in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada and of Otacimow, a Cree dancer and story teller.

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All contents copyright 2003, C.B.E. All rights reserved.
Web Author: M. Speight

Last updated March 19, 2003

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