Jingle Dress Dancers

Google Doodle banner celebrating jingle dress dancers

Google Doodle’s Celebrating the Jingle Dress Dance is a reminder of the Jingle Dress Dancers I’ve seen at Native American powwows.

Jingle Dress DancerThe Jingle Dress Dancers were one of many dancers celebrating at the Chambers Powwows I’ve attended.

All the powwow dancers convey different elements of Native American life and culture with costumes showcasing a connection with nature with feathers and fur and the sewn patterns and textures.

Both women and men dance, but women were not allowed to be part of the powwow dance performances until the 1950s.

In the video of the Chambers Powwow that I filmed, you’ll see women doing different kinds of dance.

The Traditional Dance Dancers wear dresses with patterned designs and carry a shawl over an arm and hold a feathered fan.

The Fancy Shawl Dancers wear decorated shawls and decorated leggings and often are compared to butterflies in flight. They dance to a faster drum beat.

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The Jingle Dress Dancers are quite special with the jingling sounds created as they dance.

It’s almost like a dozen lovely wind chimes are playing in the breeze or a flock of silver-throated birds are singing. The dancers sparkle as they dance if the sun is at the right angle.

The Jingle Dress Dance was created because of a dream more than 100 years ago.

A Native American holy man who was trying to heal his sick daughter had a dream that if she danced wearing an outfit covered with tiny metal cones on clothing, she would be cured. His wife sewed the dress, the little girl danced, and over time she was healed.

powwow drum
Jingle Dress Dancer performs at the Chambers Powwow.

Joshua Mangeship Pawis-Steckley is the artist for the Google Doodle. When Google interviewed him about his artwork, he said he has cousins and friends who are jingle dress dancers and that he plays in the drum circles at powwows with his uncles and cousins.

He said he hoped those who saw his artwork would know “that indigenous women are strong and resilient and the voice of our future.”

Strength definitely is needed to be a jingle dress dancer.

While at one of the powwows, I asked one of the jingle dress dancers if I could examine the metal cones on her dress. She encouraged me to lift a section of her skirt.

Covered with the glittering cones, that one section of skirt was like lifting chain mail armor! I imagined the challenge of performing the lively dancing wearing such a weighted outfit.