The Native American Rain Dance

Native American Rain Dance … The Weather Forecast is…





Let’s set the stage … it’s mid to late August, it’s hot, the crops need water to live and the people need the crops in order to survive the winter. With spirituality running through all facets of Native American life, a ceremonial dance, the Native American Rain Dance, is performed to provoke rain and ensure harvest protection. The Rain Dance was most common to regions of the Southwest, which typically experienced and continues to experience severe temperatures with little rainfall. However, other Native American tribes performed rain dances, such as the Cherokee in the Southeastern United States.

Info snippet: Did you know that …the rain dance was/is performed by both the men and women of the tribe, unlike other tribal rituals where only men were/are allowed!


So, the Native American Rain Dance is unique because both men and women danced. The clothing and large headdresses worn were also unique and special. Large headdresses were worn that contained goat hair and the costumes contained unique designs and jewels such as turquoise. These special clothes were worn every year for the rain dance, and usually were stored the entire year for this specific ceremony. Another unique factor involved men and women moving in zigzag patterns, rather than standing in a circle as was often seen in tribal dances.

Rain Dance Flute Song on YouTube.


Feathers and turquoise are worn during the ceremony to symbolize wind and rain respectively. Many traditions of the Rain Dance are passed down through history by oral traditions. The men would have long hair waving in the ceremony and the women wore their hair in a special tribal wrap at the sides of their heads. The mask that the Indian men wear is a mask with a turquoise strip that stretches from ear to ear across the face of the mask. Then the bottom is a band of blue, yellow, and red rectangles. A fringe of horsehair hangs from the bottom which covers the throat and three white feathers hang from the top of the male mask. The women’s mask is somewhat similar but instead of a turquoise stripe, theirs is white and they do not have the rectangles on the bottom or the horsehair. The women’s masks also have goat hair around the top and an Eagles feather hangs over their face. The men also have their bodies painted up by tribal standards and wear special beads and they wore a fox skin hung behind them and also a silver bracelet and white apron type cloth. They also wore turquoise moccasins. The women wore a black dress and no parts of their bodies were shown except their bare feet. Then they wore a bright colored shawl with one black and one white shawl over that. Then they all lined up and performed the Native American rain dance in hopes of bringing the rain that they desperately need. Many reservations in the southwest still perform this ritual to this day.

The story of how the term “Rain Dance” came into being holds that, during the days of the Native American relocation, the government banned certain religious ceremonies (amongst them the Rain Dance and Ghost Dance). The tribes in suppressed areas were forbidden to perform the Sun Dance. The Windigokan, a nominally cannibalistic sect, nicknamed "the backward people," became famous for telling federal representatives that the dance being performed was not the Sun Dance, but the Native American Rain Dance, thus preventing any prosecution or federal intervention.

Evidence on how each rain dance was performed is passed down through oral tradition, and the fact that some Native Americans keep these rituals alive today. Although many rain dance costumes appear in museums, some are actually worn by modern day tribes' people during ceremonies or are kept as family heirlooms. The rain dance is still an important part of Native American consciousness, just as we are concerned with the amount of rainfall even in the modern world.



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