Animal Dance

 

 

 

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by Ernest Thompson Seton

For this we need a Nana-bo-jou; that is, a grown-up who can drum and sing. He has a drum and drumstick, and a straw or paper club; also two goblins, these are good-sized boys or girls wearing ugly masks, or at least black hoods with two eye holes, made as hideous as possible; and any number of children, from three or four up, for animals. If each has the attributes of some bird or beast, so much the better.

First, Nana-bo-jou is seen chasing the children around the outside of the circle, trying to catch one to eat; but failing, thinks he'll try a trick and he says,

"Stop, stop, my brothers. Why should we quarrel? Come, let's hold a council together and I will teach you a new dance."

The animals whisper together and the coyote comes forward, barks, then says:

"Nana-bo-jou, I am the Coyote. The animals say that they will come to council if you will really make peace and play no tricks.

"Tricks!" says Nana-bo-jou "I only want to teach you the new songs from the South."

Then all the animals troop in and sit in a circle. Nana-bo-jou takes his drum and begins to sing,

"New songs from the South, my brothers, Dance to the new songs."

Turning to one, he says:

"Who are you and what can yon dance?"

The answer is, "I am the Beaver (or whatever it is) and I can dance the Beaver Dance."

"Good! Come and show me how."

So the Beaver dances to the music, slapping the back of his flat right hand, up and under his left hand for a tail, holding up a stick in both paws to gnaw it, and lumbering along in time to the music at the same time imitating the beaver's waddle.

Nana-bo-jou shouts: "Fine! That is the best Beaver Dance I ever saw. You are wonderful; all you need to be perfect is wings. Wouldn't you like to have wings so you could fly over the tree-tops like the eagle?"

"Yes," says the Beaver.

"I can make strong medicine and give you wings, if all the animals will help me," says Nana-bo-jou. "Will you?"

"Yes," they all cry.

"Then all close your eyes tight and cover them with your paws. Don't look until I tell you. Beaver, close your eyes and dance very fast and I will make magic to give you wings."

All close and cover their eyes. Nana-bo-jou sings very loudly and, rushing on the Beaver, hits him on the head with the straw club. The Beaver falls dead. The two goblins run in from one side and drag off the body.

Then Nana-bo-jou shouts: "Look, look, now. See how he flies away! See, there goes the Beaver over the treetops." All look as he points and seem to see the Beaver going.

Different animals and birds are brought out to dance their dances and are killed as before. Then the Crow comes out, hopping, flopping, cawing. Nana-bo-jou looks at him and says: "You are too thin. You are no good. You don't need any more wings," and so sends him to sit down.

Then the Coyote comes out to do the Coyote Dance, imitating Coyote, etc.; but he is very suspicious and, in answer to the questions, says, "No; I don't want wings. The Great Spirit gave me good legs, so I am satisfied"; then goes back to his seat.

Next the Deer, the Sheep, etc., come out and are killed; while all the rest are persuaded that the victims flew away. But the Coyote and the Loon have their doubts. They danced in their turns, but said they didn't want any change. They are satisfied as the Great Spirit made them.

They are very slow about hiding their eyes. At last, they peek and realize that it is all a trap and the Loon shouts: "Nana-bo-jou is killing us! It is all a trick! Fly for your lives!"

As they all run away, Nana-bo-jou pursues the Loon, hitting him behind with the club, which is the reason that the Loon has no tail and has been lame behind ever since.

The Loon shouts the Loon battle--cry, a high-pitched quavering lul-l-l-o-o-o and faces Nana-bo-jou; the animals rally around the Loon and the Coyote to attack the magician. All point their fingers at him shouting Wakankan Seecha" (or Black Magic). He falls dead in the circle. They bury him with branches, leaves, or a blanket, and all the animals do their dances around him.

Before beginning the story of the dance should be told to the audience.

The Birch Bark Roll

 

 

   

 

 


Additional Information:

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Storm Cloud ] Lone Scout ] Shoshoni Dog ] Caribou Dance ] [ Animal Dance ] Hopi Corn ] Spring Dance ] Fall Dance ] Snake Dance ] Courtship Eagles ] Peace Pipe ] War Dance ] Refference ]

Parent- Level Topic Links:
Native Skills ] Totem Poles ] Indian Sign Language ] Indian Ceremonies ] Indian Dance ] Indian Songs ] Birch Bark Dances ] Birch Bark Songs ] Birch Bark Plays ] Indian Games for Boys ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.