Dramatic Representation

Dramatic representation. Among many tribes ceremonies were dramatic in character. Every religious rite had its dramatic phases or episodes expressive of beliefs, emotions, or desires, but in certain in stances the dramatic element dominated and became differentiated from the ceremony. In such cases there were masked and costumed actors with stage setting, effigies, and other properties, and events, historical or mythic, in the cultural history or life of the tribe were represented. The most elaborate of these exhibitions were those of the Pueblo peoples and the tribes of the N. W. coast. Among the Hopi a dramatic representation occurs, yearly in March either in the open plaza or in a kiva. The space between the fire and one end of the room is set apart as the stage; at the rear a decorated screen is placed, behind which are men who sound shell trumpets and manipulate the effigies of a plumed serpent, which, at times, are projected through the screen and contend with the actors in front. Marionettes of the Corn-maids are occasionally employed and are skilfully man aged; birds walk about and whistle; imitation fields of corn are swept over by serpent effigies, and men representing primal gods struggle with the effigies in an effort to overcome them. The stage set ting and personnel are changed for every act, and during the change blankets are held around the fire to darken the kiva.

In the large wooden dwellings of the N. W. myths and legends were dramatized. The performance took place at one end of the house, where concealed openings in the painted wall admitted the actors who personated gods and heroes, and there were devices to give realistic effect to strange and magical scenes. Songs and dances accompanied the dramatic presentation.

Some of the great tribal ceremonies of the inland peoples, while religious in initiative, were social in general character. They portrayed episodes in the past history of the tribe for the instruction of the younger generation. There were societies a part of whose function was to preserve the history of its membership. This was done by means of song and the dramatic representation of the acts the song commemorated.

The Pawnee were remarkable for their skill in sleight-of-hand performances. Seeds were sown, plants grew, blossomed, and yielded fruit; spears were thrust through the body and many other surprising feats performed in the open lodge with no apparent means of concealment. During many dramatic representations, particularly those which took place in the open air, episodes were introduced in which a humorous turn was given to some current event in the tribe. Sometimes clowns appeared and by their antics relieved the tensity of the dramatic presentation. Among the Pueblo Indians these “delight-makers,” as Bandelier translates the name of the Koshare of the Queres villagers, constitute a society which performs comedies in the intervals of the public dances. See Ceremony, Dance.

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Consult Bandelier, Delight Makers, 1900; Boas in Rep. Nat. Mus., 1895; Dorsey and Voth in Field Columb. Mus. Publ., Anthrop. ser. ; Fewkes ( 1 ) in 15th and 19th Reps. B. A. E., 1897, 1900; (2) Proc. Wash. Acad. Sci., i, 1900; (3) various articles in Am. Anthrop. and Jour. Am. Folk lore; Fletcher in Proc. A. A. A. S., XLV, 1896; Matthews in Mem. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist., vi, 1902; Powell in 19th Rep. B. A. E., 1900; Stevenson in 23d Rep. B. A. E., 1905. (A. C. F.)

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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