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Okanagan First Nations

Festivals

The only festivals that were held were suppers given by the families to one another during the winter, at which they sang and danced.  Drums were used for keeping time for both singers and dancers.  The rattles were made of wood horn and hides with small stones inside.  Deer hoof rattles were tied to the ankles, knees, elbows and wrists.  Some were also tied to the ends of sticks.  Flutes and whistles were never used at dances, only by young men when serenading the girls.

 

There were usually four big dances in the year - the war dance, the scalp dance, the guardian spirit dance, and the religious dance.

 

The war dance was put on before going off to fight, in certain parts the dancers acted as though they were really fighting.  Ten or more young men usually took part.  Sometimes they held this kind of dance before proceeding on a horse-stealing venture or an expedition to make a name for themselves.

 

The scalp dance was in the form of a procession, at which all the people sung.  Then each of the dancers would tell of all the brave things that he had done and how many of the enemy he had killed.  The scalps were given to the women, who carried them at the ends of spears or poles.  Some of the women sometimes took part in the dance dressed as braves.  At the end of the dance everyone sat down to a feast.

 

In the guardian spirit dance, each boy sang his own song, which he had learned and practiced during his training period.  He then showed his powers and acted like the bird or animal that was his guardian spirit.

In the religious dance, two chiefs had charge and offered prayers up to the “Chief Above.”

 

There was also a marrying dance, in which all the young women danced by themselves.  Then the young men made a circle and danced in the opposite direction.  Each man had a short stick.  During the dance when a young man came opposite the girl he wanted, he put his stick on her shoulder and leaving his line, danced beside her.  If the girl did not want him, she threw off the stick and he had to go back to his own line.  If she let the stick stay, she was pleased with him and they were considered married.  At the end of the dance the chief would stand up and say that they were man and wife.

 

A sun dance was also performed on the longest and shortest days.  In all the dances everyone danced by themselves, often staying in the same place while they danced.  Most of the dancing was done by moving the hands and body from side to side.

 

The above pictures were done by the children who attended the Inkameep Day School between 1932 and 1942.