buffalo dance

2011, oil, 40"h x 64"w

24.Buffalo Dance 40x64.jpg

Just as agricultural tribes held a variety of dances and ceremonials in supplication to their deities to ensure a bountiful harvest, so too, were dances and rituals performed by the tribes who relied upon the success of the buffalo hunt. These ceremonies varied from tribe to tribe and were often different within bands of the same denomination. The universal intention was to call the buffalo herds by summoning the sacred animal spirits and supernatural forces to invoke their powers for assistance. All of these dances were venerable prayer requests utilizing buffalo charming songs, drumming, chants, and dance steps mimicking the actions of buffalo.

In Blackfeet culture for example, the buffalo dance was one of many dances performed during the Beaver Bundle Medicine ceremonies. In some tribal rites, such as those of the Lakota, the dancers donned elaborate costumes using buffalo head masks and hides with symbolic body painting, dance rattles, warrior society staffs, lances and shields. The pattern of the dance steps often resembled hooking the ground in imitation of buffalo digging wallows, pawing up the dirt and bellowing as it's thrown upon their backs in dusting themselves. No matter how they were performed, the purpose remained the same, to bring the herds and draw them in close so that by whatever method of hunting, all would know success. For the people of the buffalo nations, full meat packs were the basis of prosperity and blessings.