AKWESASNE MOHAWK SOCIAL DANCES
Reprinted with permission by the Native North American Travelling College
HOW TO HAVE A SOCIAL DANCE
1. You need a speaker to do the Opening Thanksgiving Address, or Ohen:ton Karihwatehkwen
2. You need a speaker for announcing dances, the lead singers, and the lead dancers. This person is called in Mohawk, Raiihowanahtha’.
3. You need a person to be the Housekeeper. This person is called in Mohawk,
4. You need Elders or knowledgeable people to give information, knowledge and encouragement to the people in between dances. This person is called Ratretsiaiens.
5. You need someone to make and keep the ﬁre going. This person is called, Rateka:tha’.
6. You will need at least four singers and they are called, Ronterenno:tha’.
7. You will also need a lot of men and women that are willing to dance and have a good time. We call these people, tehatinonniahkhwa.
If you have all of the above in order, you are assured to have a wonderful social dance.
At a social dance it is important that all the people behave in an appropriate way. Mothers and fathers should always accompany their children. Children should be seated next to their parents and never be free to run or roam around the Longhouse. This is how parents teach their children to become observant, respectful and quiet. When the singers are singing, the people should be listening to their song and even try to sing along with them at least mentally.
When a speaker stands to speak, everyone should immediately listen to his announcements. There should be no reason for anyone to speak loudly or yell to get the attention of the people. If someone has to yell to get the attention of the people, it is considered very disrespectful. In fact, it means we are beginning to lose our Onkwehon:we’ ways. At a social dance gathering people can visit with one another, but it is done quietly. Socials are meant to be relaxing, fun and soothing. It is also expected that children or adults will not touch someone’s drum or rattles unless they have received permission from the owner. The following is the general speech the announcer use.
Instruments for Making Music
1. Stomping (feet) and Women Clapping Hands
2. Water Drum (Social)
3. Big Water Drum (Ohki:we’)
4. Regular Horn Rattles
5. Turtle Rattles
6. Sticks and Leather Strap
8. Gourd Rattles
Women Clapping Hands
There are two dances where the stomping of one’s feet are used. The first is at the sacred ceremony of the Aton:wa. The Aton:wa of course means the personal thanksgiving chants of men or is sometimes referred to as the name giving or name raising ceremony. The women who are seated clap their hands to the rhythm of the men who are stomping their feet.
The stomp dance or Wa’tahtshro:ton is another dance that the stomping of feet by both women/men is required while the dance is in progress. The stomp is a social dance. It is done in single file with women in between the men. It is a marching type dance.
Sticks & Leather Strap
The sticks are used to make music for a social dance, can be made from any kind of tree but hickory is favored. These sticks are about one or two inches in diameter and about one foot to sixteen inches long. They are used to strike the wooden bench, thus providing the beat or rhythm for the song.
Also a piece of leather or a strip of leather can be used by each singer holding one end of the leather strip and with the other hand hitting the strip with a stick. This produces a beat and rhythm for the song.