the sunrise dance is a White Mountain Apache four day ceremony in which a girl passes from childhood to womanhood.

 an eagle feather is pinned to her head to "help her live long until her hair turns gray". an abalone shell pendant is placed on her forehead as the "sign of Changing Woman, mother of all Apache people"
 a Godmother is appointed and massages the girl to give her all her knowledge.

the first night, for hours, around the fire she follows a crown dancer who impersonates a protective spirit. 

saturday at dawn, men began to chant. Godmother tells her to dance while kneeling on a buckskin pad facing the sun-the creator. Apache women grind corn. the girl must run quickly around a sacred cane, so no one evil will ever catch up with her. her aunt is running behind her, followed by her Godmother. 

on sunday, her Godfather directs her dancing with an eagle feather in each hand. next to him, her father holds her sacred cane. when she is old, she will use this cane for walking. it is decorated with feathers of the even-tempered oriole to give her good disposition. 
her aunt stays close to make sure no evil-thinking people touch her.

 the medicine man leads the singing in the Apache language. 

cattail pollen is something holy to the Apache people. it is used as a blessing. on saturday and sunday she is showered with the bright yellow powder. all the people in attendance pick up a handful of pollen from a basket and shake it over her head. each says prayers in their minds.
then her father pours candies and corn kernels over her to protect her from famine. 

on sunday, her Godfather paints her from the top of her head to the bottom of her buckskin boots. she is blessed and protected from all four sides. four is the most important number to the Apache. 
the paint is a mixture of pollen, corn-meal, and ground-up stones of four colors. 
the costume was made by her aunt who sewed the buckskin top; her mother who cut and rolled about 200 pieces of tin cans for the jingles; she says they "make her sound like wind in the trees when she walks". her mother also beaded the necklace. her aunt made the velvet camp dress. 
for four days she cant bathe, touch her skin, or drink from a glass.

the men raised the tepee frame. she dances through it several times so she will always have a safe home.

 national geographic magazine. february 1980.


Miss M said...

what a fascinating ritual.

+Miss M+

Sara said...

Oh man, so funny: I was JUST looking at this issue the other day! Sooo beautiful, thank you for posting it - especially with all that amazing description! xx


thank you really very much for this interesting post, really enjoyed reading it! what an amazing ritual!

Anonymous said...

wow, thank you. this is beautiful. it's beautiful that they gave her a cane for her old age as a ritual. they're not running from aging as we're taught to.