Grizzly Bear Native American Dance
I was wondering what the talk was about this one female dancer performing the bear Dance. I just had to learn more about it. What does it mean, what do they mean the ancestors are upset. Why because a woman was performing it? I just needed to find out more. Check out below what I have read and researched out the Bear Dance. Native American Indians regarded the grizzly bear with awe and respect.
Early hunting peoples noticed that these bears had very multifaceted behaviors. Many native tribes thought of the bear as a "god". American Indians saw that these grizzlies were large and very strong animals that could move quickly in spite of their size. It's no wonder that these magnificent animals would become the center of Indian legends. Often found in Indian paintings and engraved in jewelry, the grizzly was a sign of strength.
The bear stood for many meanings and rituals among the American Indians. The Indian Bear Dance was considered the Ghost Dance, bringing back the ghosts of their ancestors while helping the grizzly bear fall asleep for its winter hibernation. Ancestors join in the dance in their spirit form while the bears are lulled to sleep. After the dance is complete, another Dance is celebrated, called the Circle of Life Dance. This dance will be held around a burning log fire until the fire burns out. The Native Indians will dance, sing and chant for warmth and light from the sun during the time the grizzly sleeps.
Many Indians feared the grizzly bear but still they hunted the large bears for food, clothing, and even jewelry. Claws were made into necklaces and often worn hanging from their waistband. Because of the Indians' beliefs that the bear had some spiritual power, wearing a bear claw necklace would mean protection and good health to the Indian wearing it.
Today Indians still wear necklaces of grizzly bear claws but only a few are preserved from the 1800's in museums. Since bear claws were objects that Indians treasured, very few were obtained outside of the Indian tribes.
Among the Ute, the respect of the bear is expressed ceremonially. Anthropologist Bertha Dutton, in her book The Ranchería, Ute, and Southern Paiute Peoples: Indians of the American Southwest, reports:
“The bear is regarded as the wisest of animals and the bravest of all except the mountain lion; he is thought to possess wonderful magic power. Feeling that the bears are fully aware of the relationship existing between themselves and the Ute, their ceremony of the bear dance assists in strengthening this friendship.”
The Bear Dance is a traditional Ute ceremony which is performed in the spring. During the 10-day ceremony, a group of men play musical rasps to charm the dancers and propitiate bears. According to oral tradition, this dance was given to the Ute by a bear. The circular dance area represents a bear cave with an opening to the south or southeast. Traditionally, the dance area was enclosed with timbers and pine boughs to a height of about seven feet.
In the Ute Bear Dance, women choose male partners and the women lead in the dancing.
Spiritual leader Eddie Box, quoted in Nancy Wood’s book When Buffalo Free the Mountains: The Survival of America’s Ute Indians. says: "Bear Dance is a rebirth, an awakening of the spirit. It’s a time of awareness. You come to learn from the past in order to arrive at the present with an understanding of the harmony of things.”
Historian Richard Young, in his book The Ute Indians of Colorado in the Twentieth Century, describes the Bear Dance this way: “Probably the oldest of the Ute Dances, the Bear Dance was a festive, social dance that had always been held in the spring before winter camps disbanded and family groups went their separate ways in search of food.”
The Utes are not the only tribe with a bear dance: the Shoshone, who are linguistically related to the Ute, also have a bear dance. This was originally a hunting dance, which had nothing to do with hunting bears. Men and women would face each other in two long lines and dance in a back-and-forth manner. In one form of the dance, a drum is used while in another form an upside-down basket is scraped by a rasp stick.
In the Dakotas, the Arikara, an agricultural nation with villages along the Missouri River, also had a bear ceremony. Among the Arikara, the bear-medicine men would put on a ceremony to gain the bear’s help in hunting. The ceremony was conducted in an earth lodge where seven elders would sing a number of songs. A young man would then be instructed to go out and get a certain kind of clay. From this clay, the bear-medicine men would make little figures of men, horses, and buffalo. They would then have the little men hunt and finally have them jump into the fire.
So to sum up my research, it totally depends on the tribe, and traditions of that tribe as far as women performing the dance.