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Lakota Music and Dance

Men's Chicken Dance

The old style chicken dance is one of the oldest forms of dancing. The dancing outfit is very different than that of the modern Traditional, Grass and Fancy Feather dances. The Men's Chicken Dance Style originates amongst the Blackfoot people. The Blackfoot are very proud of this dance. It started out as a religious society known as the Kiitokii Society. The Kiitokii Society is still practiced to this day on the Siksika First Nation in Southern Alberta. This is the story that is told of how this society came to the Blackfoot. Long ago in the buffalo days, there was a young Blackfoot man hunting to get food for his family. He heard a noise in the distance. It sounded like something was thumping on the ground. He got very curious and followed this sound. As he approached the sound he saw these prairie chickens dancing in the tall grass. He took his bow and arrow and shot and killed one of these birds. He brought the carcass back to his tipi and his wife prepared it for the evening feast. As the man's family was done eating their dinner, they went to lay their heads down for the night. When this man was sleeping he had a dream that this prairie chicken spirit came to him and asked him "Why did you kill me? My people were doing a sacred dance of my people". The man replied that he needed to feed his family. The prairie chicken had honored this and told this man that he was going to teach him the sacred dance of his people. He was to go out there and teach every man this dance and if he did not do as he was told this prairie chicken was going to come back and take this man's life. The man woke up from his dream, and he shared his dream with his people. This is how the Prairie Chicken Society and Men's Chicken Dance came to the Blackfoot people.

The male Prairie Chickens dance for the female hens each spring during courtship and mating. They puff out their chests, stomp their feet, shake their heads, fan their tail feathers out in a round fashion and dance. As the male Praire Chicken dances he also throws his top feathers down towards the ground. This is all done to attract the attention of the hens.

That's why Prairie Chicken dancers have those two top feathers with fluffs on the tips. As they dance they are supposed to also bend downwards so the top feathers drop forward and towards the ground. There are various songs that go with this dance and they even have ceremonies much like the Grass Dance Society.

You can watch Praire Chickens do this dance during the spring months, early in the morning. You can also hear the sound that they make as they dance (Dig'dee, Dig'dee)The white man calls these places Lekks, where Praire Chickens can be found.

Historically, this style is sort-of a predecessor to Fancy Dancing but it has been making a strong comeback. Chicken Dancers usually are registered along with Northern Tradish at contest, though some powwows have chicken dance specials.

Traditionally, the dance is a simulation of the courtship dance of the prairie chicken. It is a full body dance that incorporates the head, shoulders, arms, hips, and legs. But good chicken dancing is also about attitude. Attracting a mate means strutting your stuff and trying to win the attention of the opposite sex. It is also not uncommon at modern pow wows to see prairie chicken dance moves incorporated into grass dance styles.

Guys dancing this way tend to wear very flamboyant regalia colors with flowery designs, round bustles with matching side bustles on the shoulders. Their movements immitate strutting roosters, preening themselves.

Regalia belonging to the Chicken Dance are usually a porcupine hair roach and two long pheasant tail feathers that curl backwards with colored plumes on the end. Traditional dress for the typical Chicken Dancer is very minimalistic. Popular are black colored tight shirts and leggings with a drape covering the chest and back. The fringe for a Chicken Dancer is very short unlike that of a Grass Dancer or Traditional Dancer. Breechclouts are very simple shapes such as a square or an oval with short fringe along the outside edges. The bustle of the Chicken Dancer is small in comparison to that of the Traditional Dancer in that it only uses small pheasant or eagle feathers circling the outside of the bustle board with bunches of small loose feathers or plumes in the center. Bells and sheep or goat skins adorn the dancer’s ankles. Moccasins can be either fully beaded or simplistic in nature. Some dancers choose to wear arm bustles and most will use the typical beaded wrist cuff. Hand carrying items include a mirror board or a gourd in one hand and an eagle tail feather fan in the other.

Chicken Dance Special Champion Robert Fish

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