The Gourd Dance is a type of Native American celebration dance and ceremony. It is believed that the dance originated with the Kiowa tribe. Gourd dances are often held to coincide with a pow-wow, although the Gourd Dance has its own unique dance and history. Gourd Dancing may precede the pow-wow or it can be a separate event, not directly connected with a pow-wow.
A Kiowa story recounts the tale of a young man who had been separated from the rest of the tribe. Hungry and dehydrated after many days of travel, the young man approached a hill and heard an unusual kind of singing coming from the other side. There he saw a red wolf singing and dancing on its hind legs. The man listened to the songs all afternoon and through the night and when morning came, the wolf spoke to him and told him to take the dance and songs back to the Kiowa people. The “howl” at the end of each gourd dance song is a tribute to the red wolf. The Kiowa Gourd Dance was once part of the Kiowa Sun Dance ceremony.
Other tribes including the Comanche and Cheyenne also have stories about the gourd dance. The Cheyenne believe that the Cheyenne tribe is the source of the gourd dance tradition and have elaborate oral tradition accounting for it. The ambiguity of origins of the dance may be because the gourd is simply a rattle. There are many types of rattles used by many different American Indian tribes, on many different occasions. It is possible that the “gourd” rattle designates a particular social organization of the dance, rather than simply the kind of rattle used. 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.