Warriors at Kiowa Gourd dance on USMC Camp Pendleton
On Friday, June 15,
2012 from 2-8pm, Active duty Native Americans, USMC dignitaries and the
Gourd dance societies of California were invited to honor and recognize
our Warriors yesterday and today. The location was a lush green field
with shades and comfortable seating for the guests. The weather was not
a sunny Southern California postcard setting. Overcast 'Coastal Eddy'
was in and kept the sun hidden all day. But the songs were hot and kept
the dancers comfortable most of the day.
Rocky Chavez, retired USMC Coronel, was the featured speaker of the day. Alvin Rough Face of the Ponca Tribe was the Emcee, Daron Henson of the Cherokee Tribe was the Head Gourd dancer, Mary Lou Stevenson-Tselee of the Wichita Tribe was the Head Women Dancer and David Patterson of the Sac and Fox and Kickapoo Tribes was the Arena director. Many were Marine veterans and some Hollywood celebrities. Once a Marine, always a Marine. In addition to the principals also recognized and Honored Serviceman is: Kevin Zotigh of the Kiowa Tribe and a Navy corpsman with the Marines.
Honored Veteran is Earl Steen of the Muscogee Creek Tribe, US Navy 1957-1960.
Our national debt to past Veterans from other conflicts that came home
to no respect, no fanfare or appreciation was recalled and they were thanked
for their service at this event. In Indian country, our returning Warriors,
female and men, have always been publically acknowledged for their service
to this land and their Tribe. The Emcee, Alvin Rough Face said, Things
are changing, Women make the supreme sacrifice like men.
The name, Black Leggings,
remained the name of the society even though they became one of the best
'horse mounted forces' on the Plains. Some say it was because the dust
from the trail made their legs black. This was before there were horses.
Others say it was because their legs were blackened while running back
into action after an enemy thought they had burned out an area to repel
an attack. Society officers also want to keep the regalia as authentic
as possible. A black string shawl is worn on the waist, from the knees
down the legs are black with paint or leggings, a decorated lance or spear
is carried and the red cape is draped over their shoulders. A red cape
must be worn to honor one of the Ton-Kon-Gah chiefs. Gool-Hay-Ee (Young
Red Colt) killed a Mexican officer and took his red cape as a war trophy.
The society is still in possession of the original cape.
It felt just right
to enjoy a day of down home Gourd Dancing with fellow veterans from many
conflicts and tribes. There were multiple sessions of dancing and specials
for those honored with responsible positions at the event.
tribes including the Comanche and Cheyenne also have traditions about
the gourd dance. The Cheyenne believe that the Cheyenne tribe is the source
of the gourd dance and have elaborate oral tradition accounting for it.
The modern gourd dance does indicate Kiowa influence pertaining both to
the social etiquette and especially the songs. In the Southern Plains
the gourd dance is dominated by Kiowa presence.
Additionally, at this event, there was very special recognition of two of the warrior societies off the Kiowa: Black legging and Tia-Piah. The variations on the word "Tia-Piah" used in the names of Kiowa Gourd Dance organizations come from Jài:fè:gàu (Tdeinpei-gah), one of the eight Kiowa warrior societies. Perhaps because of the military connotations of the term the Gourd Dance has often been mistaken for a "veteran's dance". However, leaders of all three of the earliest Kiowa-established gourd dance organizations agree that this is not a requirement to become a member of the societies.
As the first sessions
of the gourd dance were ending the chill ocean breeze sharpened the appetites.
The base provided a fine dinner menu for all to enjoy: Corn soup, chicken,
many salads, fry bread, fried rice, many selections of desert and good
sweet watermelon. Beverages included coffee, bottled water or your choice.
The meal nourished the body and warmed the spirit.