The Creeks and Their Dances (10)
By Ghost Dancer
The ceremonial grounds are the backbone of all Southeastern Creek peoples. Before the removal there were numerous towns and each town had its own ceremonial grounds, the place where tribal members practiced their religious ceremonies.
The Ribbon Dance is the most important dance of all among Southeastern Native peoples. Traditionally, the Ribbon Dance has always been performed at the Green Corn Ceremony – every community’s annual cleansing and renewal – but is also widely used before many other ceremonies as well.
The Ribbon Dance honors our women who give us life, our bloodlines and our connection to Mother Earth and our Creator. The ribbons symbolize the umbilical cord and the dance reaffirms the connection of our mothers, grandmothers and all females to Mother Earth, Grandmother Sun, and to all of our bloodlines which are connected together by this umbilical cord.
All Creeks know that women are the true power of the tribes, clans, towns and nation. The ribbon symbolizes not only our bloodline connection, but also our DNA and spiritual connections to all things that exist. Even the colors of the ribbons signify the clan we belong to. The Ribbon Dance highlights and reaffirms that we feel and understand this connection at all times. In ancient times, these beautiful ribbons were made from braided hemp fibers dyed in an array colors from plants and other natural sources.
As preparations are made for the annual Green Corn, four women are selected to lead the Ribbon Dance. These women will serve in these matters for four years as the lead dancers. After four years, selection will be done again. Some women are selected many times and it is always a high honor to be selected.
The Ribbon Dance is held in the evening the day before the Green Corn Ceremony. The dance begins when four calls are made by the town crier (announcer) to make sure all the singers, drummers and dancers for the Ribbon Dance are prepared. The women all wear bright colored dresses with ribbons of their clan colors streaming from their hair and dresses. At this time the men sit in the arbors and two will drum and sing while only the women dance.
The women who were selected lead the other ladies in a colorful procession of dancers moving counter-clockwise around the grounds four times. Holding hands the leaders step out on their right foot, forming a line, side stepping around the ground. Behind the leaders come the clan mothers and behind them the beloved women who represent unity among all the people. The younger women and then the girls gradually join hand as the dancers proceed around the grounds, all side stepping with their colorful ribbons streaming from their hair, arms and hands.
As the lead dancers reach the starting point they take a step inward to begin forming an inward spiral for the second round. The dance pace quickens with each round. After the first four rounds, one by one the men and boys join the dance, falling in between the women. With ribbons flying from their arms and hands, they bring their male energy to the dance of honor and respect for all women. Once all the men and boys have joined in, the spiral of dancers covers the grounds.
As the dance ends, the four leaders, now positioned in the very center, stand close together like posts representing the sacred directions, East, South, West, North, Above and Below tying all the dancers and everyone together with a sense of love, balance and beauty. Now, the dancers respectfully remain still while the leaders, elders, clan mothers, and beloved women all make their way off to be seated in places of honor in the arbors surrounding the grounds.
At this time, the town crier will announce the next dance designated by the musicians. The drums will begin again and the dancing will continue on into the night.
Women are the ones who lead in our way of life and we as males follow their lead (or wish we had). This is why the four who are chosen to lead the dance are so honored and in turn have others join them as the dance goes on.
Now I know that in today’s society, many men believe they are better or of a higher status than women. But men, listen up, realistically you are not! And traditionally you never were and never could be for all women were highly respected and above men in all matters.
© Ghost Dancer 2021