White Deerskin Dance
White Deerskin Dance
Around the 1900s, in historic Northern California and Southwestern Oregon, there existed the Hupa, Karuk, Wiyot, and Yurok clans. They all had different cultures and governing styles but also shared similar traditional rituals. One of these rituals was the White Deerskin Dance. This particular ritual was very important to all clans and was held very sacred by many. Understanding what exactly went on during such rituals and particularly the white deerskin dance is important in modern anthropology. Luckily, some of the artefacts used have been recovered along the years by scholars and they meaning decoded.
The white deerskin dance as mentioned before was a sacred ritual that happened in the northern parts of California and Southwestern Oregon. As the name suggests, it was a ritual where a white deerskin was the main part of the ceremony. The white deerskin dance normally used to take place once a year in either August or September. The ceremony had more meaning to these communities other than just taking note of the white deerskin. The ceremony also served as a social event which aimed at showing the elevated status of village elders and bringing partners together from the different communities. A point to note was that the ceremony was where ancestral family artefacts that were treasured and heirlooms were displayed to the public. The fact that people from different clans were present during these ceremonies, it ended up serving as social events influencing trade and interaction in a broader perspective.
The reason as to why the whole ceremony was termed as the white deerskin dance was basically because the ceremony surrounded the worshiping of the white deerskin. The skin was held highly by these communities because it was rarely found, probably handed down from generation to generation and the people believed it brought good luck to its owners and individuals associated to it. Strictly, thee white deerskins were never to sold off but rather handed down to future generations. The white deerskin dance was a preserve for men alone as women were viewed as a weaker species and not fit to appear in these sacred events. During the white deerskin dance, performers stood in line with one in the middle holding the white deerskin whilst flanked by others holding normal deerskins. It was led by the elders of the community or clan, who taught the masses their historic cultures and rules to adhere to and observe with care. This was normally in between the dances that the much younger and agile men performed. Two men at the end of the lines flanking the leader would have no deerskin with them but would be holding special blades each. These blades were identical in nature and not necessarily owned by the individuals holding them. The two would dance in tune with the rhythm of the chants and songs.
The white deerskin dance could be easily compared to the recent making of children toys from fired clay. According to Oregon State Office, archaeological investigations have proven this to be true (266). This is true in the sense that both activities promote social interaction between individuals which sees the growth of communities. Learning from different people different ways of doing tasks enhances the power of problem solving since most technics known to man are not learnt in classroom settings but mostly through human interaction.
Archaeology of Oregon.U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon State Office, 1984.
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