Smoke Dance

Of all the many dances recorded here several may be occasionally used for individual curative rites as dictated by their individual needs as told by a fortune teller, but they remain essentially social dances. Only Wasa’za and Wuni’i are definite religious dances never given for fun in the Longhouse. Nowadays, they are seen outside these precincts when given by professional dance troupes. With the War Dance there are 4-5 songs sung outdoors at the fire and on the way into the Longhouse, when it is used in a religious manner, which are never given on shows. Otherwise the songs for religious and show use are the same. Some singers prefer to alter them somewhat, it should be noted, so that they can not be accused of exploiting their religion. It is possible that the War Dance may have been offered anciently to the spirit charged with protecting Warriors but the advent of the Handsome Lake Religion (Gi’we’yo….Good Word) and the passing of the ancient war complex gave it a new function. Today, it is addressed to “Our Grandfathers, the Thunderers” and is referred to in English as the ‘Rain Dance’ or Thunder Dance’. This is for men only and offers them the greatest freedom of any dance in body movement. The dancers move individually and freely about in a loose contraclockwise direction within a loosely packed knot of dancers. Body weight is placed on one leg, knee bent, and 3 tiny shuffles or little hops made, while the other leg is extended and tapped 3 times on the floor, either flat footed or with toe or heel variations. The weight is then transferred to to the other leg and these motions repeated. This continues to the end of the song. The dance is unique in its brief posing stances by the dancers. With each change in weight the dancer affects a new pose: Wrists on each hip, elbows out and looking at one; then perhaps on a next change to look at the other elbow; a deep knee bend with one leg, one wrist on hip, the other arm bent high in the air and gazed at by the dancer; both arms extended bird fashion to the side, fist clenched, or stretched low and to the back with the dancer looking over a shoulder at his hands. Such are some of the stances obtained. The name”wasa’za” referes to the Osage Indians, and during Rain Dance the dancers are addressed as “Wasa’za hono” (Osage People)….but this is ambiguous and may only mean ‘dancers of the Rain Dance’. It is not unknown for a singer to forget himself in some manner in the course of an evening’s singing make some error. An example is provided on the record when on singer, thinking of other matters, noticeable errors (as will be readily apparent) and was greeted by the typical response to this situation: surprised looks, smiles, and shoving from the others. In the Longhouse, during more secular songs there might have been chuckling and comic teasing as well. The Iroquois penchant for teasing can usually be relied upon to ease the tensions of an awkward situation.       


The Smoke Dance is originally a war dance, which is danced by men only.  The Smoke Dance is a recent creation.  While not considered a Earth Song (Social Song), is has recently gained popularity because of  Smoke Dance Contests.  Over the past few decades while putting on “Shows” or exhibitions of Iroquoian Singing and Dancing, some singers sped up the tempo of the old “War Dance “songs to see if the dancers could keep up.  The result is the ‘Smoke Dance.  During Smoke Dance Contests, both the new faster and older slower “War Dance” songs are sung for the men’s contests while the women dance to faster songs only.

A fish Dance style of dance

Sung by a solo singer using only a water drum.  Some singers have choosen to use a skin drum, to give the beat a deeper sound.

Men are said to dance with a amount of arrogance & pride, while women dance a more graceful style.

The style of dance varies greatly per dancer.