Dances and Dancing (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: Among American Indians, dancing has always played a highly significant role in religious ceremonies and other celebrations
When white explorers and settlers first came to North America, they were immediately impressed by the amount of dancing in which the native population engaged. Centuries later, some of the significance of tribal ceremonies has been lost, as more and more Indians have accepted white culture and religion. Nevertheless, dancing still plays an important part in American Indian life, whether it represents a true continuation of the original tribal cultures, a celebration of birth, death, or other rites of passage, or merely a performance for non-Indian tourists.
When European explorers and settlers first encountered the native population of what would later become the United States, they found a wide variety of cultures, all of them vastly different from the ones they had left behind. The American Indians had never developed a technological civilization, and the land was much less densely populated than that of Europe. The religious beliefs were like nothing the Europeans had ever encountered.
The first Europeans in North America had no understanding of the native languages they encountered. The usual view of the “red man” was as a savage—inherently inferior to the settlers and potentially dangerous. The two major activities of the...
(The entire section is 2593 words.)
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