Dancing was always an important part of Native American Life not only for entertainment and story telling, but for more serious purposes such as war, hunting, healing, honor, and spiritual life. A successful dance was made up of different elements such as drums, flutes, chants, costumes, and the Dance Stick.
Dance Sticks were crafted by nearly all Native American tribes and were an integral part of each specific dance. They varied as to design depending on the purpose of the dance. Generally, they were made of various lengths of wood with part of an antler attached on one or both ends of the stick.
Sometimes animal skulls, or dried animal parts such as feet and heads are used for embellishments. For example, a deer foot denotes swiftness and a fox head warmth during a hunt. Feathers were attached to represent prayers to the Great Spirit and colored beads the family or clan. Dance Sticks were held in high regard and were passed down from generation to generation.
The movement of the Dance Stick during a dance helped to increase the emotional levels of the participants and the viewers. This could be seen in a War Dance. Increased emotion, excitement, and energy were the result of the Dance. Additional decorations were added to the Stick when used for honoring a fallen tribe member or even a horse. Hair from the mane or tail of the horse was attached to make sure that prayers from the warrior would go directly to the horse.
The Native American Medicine Man or Shaman often used a Dance Stick also known as a Medicine Stick, in his performance, to call upon healing energies. All the decorations and embellishments are chosen for specific beneficial purposes. Sometimes he attaches a medicine bag to increase its power. The Shaman often uses the Medicine Stick for private meditation as well.
Today, anyone can use a Native American Dance Stick not only for meditation, but to enhance the Southwest decor of their room or home. The bright colors, feathers and decorations add a natural touch and is a treasured addition to any home.