Summer is an exciting time across Indian country as this is the height of the powwow season, with powwows taking place every weekend.
In Lakota, powwows are called wacipi, which means a dance.
To the untrained ear, wacipi songs may sound the same; however, songs vary greatly in style and purpose.
One of the fun things to do at a wacipi is to learn about the different kinds of songs.
There’s a vast difference between contemporary and traditional songs. Some drum groups from other tribes bring their songs to wacipis in Lakota country.
Many times Lakotas will not understand a song from another tribe but will recognize the drum beat and style, which allows people from different tribes to share a common joy of the wacipi experience while singing and dancing together.
There are numerous types of songs.
Veteran songs honor our akicitas, past and present. Different songs honor akicitas from different wars and different eras.
Honoring songs are for recognizing individuals and their accomplishments. In a rare treat, the individual’s Indian name is used in the song, which can be one of the times that your Indian name is used in public by other people. Nowadays, Lakota use given English or Christian names, and rarely use Lakota names.
Society songs are sung to express that society’s commitments.
Dance songs can be specific to a dance category or they could be songs for everybody to dance to, such as intertribal or straight songs. Keep in mind, straight songs can also be specific to a dance category.
Songs that tell a story are common at wacipis. Examples of these are “Duck and dive” and “Crow Hop.” Duck and dive is said to have originated with the Nez Perce people who were fighting against the Milahansksa (U.S. Calvary soldiers called Long Knives). When the soldiers attacked, two brothers were separated during the fight and just as the brothers found each other, two cannons were fired. The two brothers saw where the cannon fires were coming from and they attacked. They captured the cannons and saved their people. Each time the cannons were fired, the two brothers ducked, thus giving the song its name, duck and dive.
The Crow Hop is the story of warriors who are tracking and sneaking up on their enemies. The warriors spring into action and attack, a battle ensues. The Crow Hop is designed for a warrior to tell about his part in a battle.
Taken as a whole, songs are a way of passing down oral history of the Lakota.
Historically, wacipis were and still are social affairs where different bands and tribes came together and exchanged ideas and political ideologies. Through wacipis, many social dances were made such as kahomini, rabbit dance, hand drum, and round dance.
Rabbit dance is an opportunity for a couple to dance together. The couples hold hands or embrace each other while dancing to a song. Sometimes a woman will wrap her shawl around her dance partner during the dance.
There are many beautiful sights and songs to experience at a wacipi. Come and enjoy yourself this summer at one of our wacipis.