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Dance Styles

Gourd dancing is not a usual pow wow dance style, but is more a separate type of dance. This dance occurs before the Grand Entry of a Pow Wow or as a Dance by itself. Only Gourd dancers may dance the Gourd dance sessions. The dance is usually held in sets, with about four songs to a set. 

The purpose of the Gourd dance is to prepare the dance arena by "cleansing it" prior to the actual ritual of the Pow Wow or dance. The Kiowa and a few southern plains Indians originated the Gourd Dance. Originally performed by the warriors or 'Dog Soldiers', it is a religious dance similar to the Sun Dance of the Lakota people. The Kiowa Gourd Society originated in Montana prior to 1870 and its origin is known as the 'Red Wolf legend'. This dance usually begins in the afternoon and signals the gathering of the Indian people to the dance. 

According to this legend, a Kiowa warrior was separated from his comrades while on a war journey. He ran out of provisions and begun to give up hope of seeing his people again when he heard singing beyond a nearby hill. When he climbed the hill, he saw a tall, lean red wolf standing on its hind legs and singing. In its paw it held a gourd, which was used to keep time with each song. At the end of each song, it would howl and shake the rattle. The warrior was mesmerized throughout the night by the singing and dancing. At dawn, the wolf turned to the warrior and said. "Take this dance and these songs to your people. As long as they cherish their tribal way, this dance and these songs will be with them." To this day, the Kiowa honor the red wolf at the end of each song by shaking their rattles and rendering a wolf howl.