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By: MAG Staff
The men’s Fancy Dance is a modern fast dance originating in Oklahoma. Two tribes, the Ponca and the Comanche, met on the battlefield where the Comanche, who had horses, defeated the Ponca’s who did not. A truce was called. The Ponca gifted the Comanche with bows and arrows. Recognizing the significance of this gift, the Comanche gave the Ponca horses. When they came back from this meeting they had a Powwow to celebrate. The horses started to dance to the songs, so the dancers mimicked the movement of the horses with speed and agility.
Historically, this dance also has its roots in American Wild West shows. With the Indian Removal Act in the United States, tribes were being pushed into Oklahoma and their way of life was being taken away. Promoters, Buffalo Bill Cody and Pawnee Bill, brought young men east to perform “war” dances for European spectators. The young men would wear the traditional war regalia but would perform a slower dance. They could not perform the war dances because those are reserved for people who have gone to war. Instead, they performed the fancy dance of the horse. The traditional regalia frightened the spectators, so the men started to wear bright colours.
The origin stories for the videos featured in the Powwow! Ohcîwin the Origins exhibition were filmed during the 2019 and 2020 powwow season. The storytellers in the videos are Knowledge Keepers, who were approached by Patrick and Marrisa Mitsuing, of Powwow Times, to share one of the origin stories of their dance specialty.
Artisans who collaborated on the Men's Fancy Regalia on display in Powwow! Ohcîwin The Origins (pictured left) include Curtis Miller Joe (accessories), Eric Mentuck (featherwork), Marrisa Mitsuing (beadwork), Yahsti Perskinskiller (head roach), and Emery-rose Assiniboine (cloth work).
Thank you to our major supporters in the development of this exhibition and its video content: Alberta Museums Association, City of Red Deer, Alberta Foundation for the Arts.
Ohcîwin is a Cree word meaning “The Origin” or telling of a story where something originated.
Powwow! Ohcîwin The Origins features 7 powwow dance styles, with full Regalia and craft work. Curators and creators, Patrick Mitsuing and Marrisa Mitsuing, have gathered the stories, worked with the Artisans, and carefully built the Regalia for this exhibition.
This exhibition is on display at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery (MAG) until February 27, 2021. Book your visit today!