War Dance – Many tribes practiced a War Dance on the evening before an attack to observe certain religious rites to ensure success. The warriors took part in a war dance while contemplating retaliation and the dance stirred emotions and filled the braves with a profound sense of purpose as they prepared for battle. Though the ceremonies varied from one tribe to another, there are common points among many including singing, often extending over an entire day and night, interspersed with prayers, handling of sacred objects or bundles, and occasional dancing. Often a sweat lodge or other purification ceremony was also held, incense burned, faces might be painted, and a pipe was frequently passed between the participants. Generally, the only musical instruments used in these ceremonies are rattles, drums, and whistles. In the Pacific Northwest, the Pueblos of the Southwest, and the Iroquois of the Woodlands, participants often were dressed and masked to represent the various gods or supernatural creatures and who acted out parts of the ritual.
War Dance names vary among Indian communities, with the Fancy Dance incorporating war dance rituals of the Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and Kiowa – Apache tribes. To the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes, the wolf is symbolically linked to a warrior and the ritual is called the “Wolf Dance.” The LakotaSioux ‘ Omaha dance is named after the Omaha tribe, who taught the dance to the Lakota, and the war dance is known to Utah’s Paiute tribe as the Fancy Bustle, in reference to part of the dancer’s costume.