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Stephens, student paper- University of Winnipeg,2002
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Note: due to formatting restrictions, all italics have been removed making the quotes a bit hard to discern, although all quotes are followed by an appropriate citation....
Young boy Heyoka- Contrary-Clown dancer, Hopi
A picture I drew showing the main colours and look of a Hopi clown
Anishinabe Contrary Clown: Wendigokaan
Two windigo are eating a clown, one turns to the other and says, does this taste funny to you?
Contemporary Account: Sundance and the Windigokaan I will give a general outline of the procession of the windigokaan ceremony as it is performed at the Sundance. This is a very contemporary account and following this quick overview I will provide more historical information on the Windigokaan. The Sundance is known to be one of the most intense and demanding ceremonies that an individual can commit oneself to. The Sundance is done out of thanks for the Life in all its processes and effects. Life is represented by the Tree of Life at the centre of the Sundance arbour. The Sundance is considered to be the Windigokaans primary ceremony and it is here that the Windies use their gifts of laughter and balance in the most obvious way. The ceremony part of the Sundance runs for four days. During this time the dancers give up food, water and sleep as an acknowledgement and thanksgiving of Life. Every day is hard on the dancers, but the fourth day is the hardest as it is then that the men and women pierce, pull Buffalo skulls and give flesh offerings. The energy intensity level is exhausting as each dancer gives of him/herself to support those that give of their bodies so that Life can continue. It is at this point that the Windigokaan dancers inconspicuously leave the Sundance area and congregate out of view of the camp. Each Windigokaan clown has his/her own outfit, the design of which provided via dreams. The outfits must cover all parts of the body, as the identity of the clowns remains a secret. The outfits can be most readily identified by the long nose that dangles from the hoods that conceal the head. The outfits purposely distance themselves from the perfect and beautiful, as a local elder and Windigokaan, Stan Williams says of their construction the uglier the better!!! The Clowns will then put on their outfits and receive instruction from the Ogiima (leader). It is worth noting that this title of Leader will change almost yearly, depending on who is the most senior at the gathering. Each Clown is given a green willow or oak branch to
which they attach a white cloth and tobacco offering. The group emerges from the woods and proceed to pester and bug the Dancers and onlookers by whatever means they feel is appropriate. The only rules are that they cannot talk in a human manner. To compensate for this, the clowns use eagle whistles and some might even employ other whistle like instruments, via toots and whistles the clowns can further annoy the people. One Clown dancer is selected to head up the group and is given a bow and arrow, which is used to shoot the offerings to make sure it is dead. The Dancers and supporters throw food, tobacco, money or any other offering (including clothes) on the ground in front of the approaching clowns. This is believed to assure one of a long life and in effect a bribe to avoid being harassed (the latter motive is usually ineffective as it is only funnier when one is subsequently harassed further!). A favourite offering sometimes taken by the clowns is the supporters hats, which are taken because the instructions of the Ogiima Windy are to take whatever is not nailed down. All Clowns carry with them a bag that is used in the collection of the offerings. The Dancers will proceed into the Sundance Arbour and begin their primary task of harassing the Dancers and singers. Many will disrupt the beat of the drum by interfering with the drumsticks and will sometimes even dance on top of the Sundance drum. In with the Clowns comes a horse, which is led around the Sundance arbour. This is because the Windigokaan is credited with the bringing and taming of the horse, which played a critical role in the Plains culture. The most important aspect of the Windigokaan is that they represent the balancing power of Life, which is Death. Life and Death are intrinsic to one another. This is why the Windy Dancers come in on the last day of the Sundance-- to remind people of the true nature of Life (this may by an explanation for the confusion between the Cannibal as the aspect of Death is associated with the Windigokaan). In this vein, Ruth Landes gives an intriguing look at the Ghost Midewiwin in Religion and the Midewiwin. Here, Landes provides the story regarding how Nanaboozho brought a shorter life span to humans and the nature of the after-life experience. Although there was no mention of a Windigokaan expressly, the elder I spoke to about the Windigokaan roles, was Midewiwin himself and the two stories are
similar enough for a suggestive connection to be made between the Ghost rites and the Windigokaan. The comical nature of the Windigokaan dancers provides the balance of the seriousness manner in which the Sundance is conducted. All of the disruption and harassing serves an important function in that by the fourth day, the dancers are having a very hard time, physically, spiritually and mentally. This distracting behaviour is in part comic relief for them. It gets their minds away from their suffering and also lets them know that the end is soon, as the coming in of the Windigokaan society is one of the last parts of the Sundance. What else is out there? In reviewing the available literature documenting the Windigokaan society, we find very little ethnographic data. Of the two direct references to the Clown societies, Alanson Skinner and Mendalbuams provide the most direct descriptions available. Of these, only Skinners provide data on the Anishinabe Windigokaan dancers. In particular he documents the Plains Ojibway/Saultueaxs clown society. I will briefly summarize both to provide some comparative material to use. Dreaming of Paguk or the Skeleton Being is the prerequisite for being allowed to dance with the Windigokaan. The dancer is required to make a costume from rags and a hideous mask; having an enormous crooked beak-like nose, the whole being daubed with paint(Skinner: 1914, p.500). Other aspects Skinner indicates are the feathered staff; the eagle bone whistle and deer hoof rattles. Inverted speech was always used. Like the Cree and Assiniboine Societies, the acquisition of food was a central theme. The windigokaan would set up their own tent away from the camp. From here, when they required food, the dancers would make rounds at the camp. People would leave food offerings outside their homes. The process would then be that one member of the troupe would stalk the offerings in an exaggerated fashion. Crawling, crouching, and generally being as sneaky as possible, the hunter would get very close to the food and then shoot the food from close range. Should the hunter miss his mark, the whole troupe would pass by and ignore it. If the hunter hits the mark, the troupe gathers around the killed offering and proceeds to make more exaggerated motion in celebration. Skinner
indicated that a member of the troupe is hires to carry the spoils back the Windigokaan lodge. The whole process is a source of amusement to the camp and would gather around to see the comedy. Once the Troupe arrives at their lodge, the Windigokaan proceed to attempt to get their food into the lodge through the smoke hole. Never through the entrance! The pieces that do not make it, are ignored and are free to whomever can get it first from the bystanders. Skinner does not examine whether the dancer played the clown role only in a ceremonial setting or, as with the Heyoka, the role was a permanent feature of the Windigokaanag life. Skinner indicates that the two functions of the Windigokaan were warriors and healers. He provides a story regarding the ogichita or warrior function of the windigokaan society. A band of seven Clown warriors dressed in Windigokaan fashion, decide to mount a war party against the Sioux. When they approached a Sioux band, the Dancer proceeded to launch into their exaggerated dancing until they were close to the Sioux. By this time the Sioux were apparently amazed at the antic, offering tobacco at these beings that acted in such a manner. (This is strange as they have a Heyoka that acts in a very similar). The Windigokaan then proceed to pull their weapons from their regalia and killed four of the seven available targets, letting the others escape. The Sioux stopped off a little ways and watched as these spirits danced away with tokens of their fallen comrades (Skinner: 1914, p.502). With the attention of the warrior function of this society it is curious that it has not been prone to more anthropological interest as surrounding plains groups have a great deal of emphasis place on their warrior societies. Curiously, Julian Haynes Steward (1991) does not even mention this aspect of the Anishinabe clown society in his review of clowning in North America. Mandelbaum describes the Cree Wihtikokancimuwin ceremony in similar terms, as did Skinner. The major differences I will highlight here. The outfit was the same and designed to look as rag-tag as possible. The use of rattles and whistles also are similar as well as the presence of the characteristic nose. Mandelbaum does indicate the presence of the Wihtikokan at the Sundance, which is similar with the current Anishinabe ceremony,
although not indicated in Skinners account. One dancer was assigned a particular character role. He was given a calf robe to wear and a hunch was constructed. This dancer was called sapoticikan and was always somewhat removed from the rest of the troupe. The major difference is the inclusion of the buffalo hunt on the day after the food-gathering event around the camp. Once the buffalo was caught the dancers proceed to make comedy with the transportation of the meat back to camp. They attached the intestines to their hair as braids, placed the stomach fat on their own abdomens as though they had a paunch, and used the carcass in other comic ways(Mandelbaum: 1940 , p.275) Note the use of the food to comically portray gluttony by the mimicry of a fat stomach. Differing from the Anishinabe account of Skinner, no mention is made of a healing role for the Wihtikokan nor of a warrior function. We do see an emphasis placed on hunting and food gathering, which tallies with the Plains Ojibway society. Closely related to both of these societies is the Assiniboine Wintogaxwatcibi. This account was captured by Lowie and is very similar to the other two accounts. Very revealing however is the recounting of the origin dream of the Fool Dance among the Assiniboine. The originator of the ceremony, Isto-ega, was still living at the time of Lowies documentation in 1907. This is also falls in line with Skinners estimate that the Assiniboine acquired the ceremony via either the Ojibway or the Cree, due to being linguistically similar. This would place the transmission of the ceremony sometime after 1680, a time according to William Warrens account, when a group of Ojibway settled around Rainy River when they encountered Assiniboine with whom they made peace. From this Lake of the Woods and Lake Nipigon occupation the Assiniboine moved north west towards lake Winnipeg where they developed strong ties, the two groups living in close vicinity throughout their western expansion.(Lowie: 1909, p.7). If we assume that the Ojibway were the originators of the ceremony, this means either the windigokaan ceremony was a feature of the pre-expansion Ojibway (before they separated into the Northern and Southern Ojibway) or that it was a more recently acquired ceremony. Lowies account seems to have more similarities to the Cree version,
employing the hunt of the buffalo and the ensuing comedy over the carcass. Finally, each one packs a part of meat. Paunches are filled with bulls blood and suspended from the neck or attached to the belt of each member.(Lowie: 1909, p, 64) By the time of this account was recorded the ceremony lasted no longer than four hours where it formerly lasted a whole day. This is more inline with contemporary Anishinabe ceremony, which lasts usually 1 to 2 hours at the most. However the Assiniboine ceremony seems to be a singular ceremony as no mention an association to the Sundance is included. This is remarkable because most other ceremonies involving the clown groups are a part of a larger ceremony. Lowie gathered his ethnographic data from Morley Alberta. Other Clowns from Around the Way In reviewing these societies we should not see these in isolation to other clowning groups. Both in the Plains groups and other groups, clown societies are well established and in most cases have received far more attention and scholarly focus. Four main types of clown and contrary societies are found on the Plains. The militaristic societies; the age-graded societies; the shamanistic societies and the northern plains type. The previous descriptions of the Ojibway, the Assiniboine and the Cree all represent the northern plains type. The militaristic societies include those of the Cheyenne whose Inverted Bow String Warriors were expected to show ridiculous amounts of bravery in battle while carrying comical weapons into battle. Notably they sometimes rode their horses into battle backwards. We could consider this a type of Pysops force, whose behaviours and operations were meant to deter and demoralize the enemy. Although the contrary warriors were very similar in dress and behaviour, the clowning, the comedy was carried out by another society. Steward reports that although the warriors did act in an antinatural way, theirs was a serious manner of living. Like the warrior sect, the Cheyenne contrary clown society was joined through the fear of lightening and thunder. The anti-natural way of the clowns carried through to every aspect of their life, even to the point of never marrying. The anti-natural clowns dressed in rags, wore sage collars and used red and white paint. Age graded societies include the Gros Ventre and
Arapahoe both have the Crazy Lodge and the Hidatsas Dog Society. These societies were entered into due to age and were not dependant upon dreams or other religio-social attributes of the individual. These categories are only general and we see that in cases like the Ojibway Windigokaan society aspects of all these societies can be found. Both the Arapahoe and Gros Ventre Crazy Lodge probably originated from a common source as they originate from a similar cultural group. Interesting to note is the use of owl feathers by the two groups, in the Arapaho case the feathers were used in some specific curing rituals. The Gros Ventre clowns also participated in some curing rituals although it is not clear whether both used the feathers for the same purpose.(Steward)The Mandan and the Hidatsa had the Dog dance, the Mandan derived this ceremony from the Hidatsa. The use of owl feathers in the ceremonial regalia is similar to the Arapaho/Gros venture groups but differ in the use of contrary speech. The Arapaho/Gros Ventre groups did use contrary speech whereas the Mandan / Hidatsa groups, apparently, did not. For a reference later, I should note that the Gros Ventre clown society used a red robe and performed the fire dance (Kroeber: 1909). The Dakota Heyoka is very similar to the Cheyenne Contrary societies in that entrance to the society is always preceded by a dream visitation of the Thunder. Similar to the Anishinabe windigokaan, the Dakota Sun dancer that dreams of a Heyoka, must perform as a clown at the Sundance. Steward reports that among the Canadian Dakota, the Heyoka is regarded as the most powerful medicine person, their association with the Thunder making then especially powerful and adept at healing. The appearance of the Heyoka is described as: tall conical hats, nearly naked bodies strongly painted, white powder.(Steward: 1991, p.47). The Heyoka were known to exercise their contrary power through a ceremony, what many writers have belittled as the boiling water trick. For the Heyoka, this was performed as part of Heyoka Kaga or Clown making ceremony, it consisted of removing pieces of dog meat from a kettle of boiling water with no sign of discomfort
or damage (Powers: 1975). This ceremony was performed not only by the Heyoka contraries but also by the contrary groups of the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Gros Ventre and by the Wabeno cult of the Ojibway. The Heyoka cult was represented in all four divisions of the Dakota, the Santee; the Sisseton; the Wahpeton (this is the group that Canadian Dakota originated from) and the Ogallala. Looking East, we can find the Hagonde:s or Long Nose who was masked in a white muslin, with a dangling, stuffed proboscis some ten to twelve inches long(Walsh: 1991, p29). See fig.1. The similarity to the windigokaan mask is virtually perfect. The Long nose dance was a part of a larger ceremony the Midwinter Ceremony and falls into a category of lesser masks-the Beggars. The Long nose Night is sometimes referred to as the Hunter Ritual. Could the essential function have been carried from the east, either through subsequent Iroquois-toOjibway visitations or vice versa? Skinner proposes this idea and stated that a small group of Iroquois had migrated this out this far in 1799. Or perhaps the clowning societies were carried with the Ojibway throughout their western migration. Closer, in Minnesota, the Ojibway have their own clown figure. He was the frightener[ ne negean], the one who frightens children and the purpose of his visit was to make the children go home and go to bed. He wore ragged clothes and walked with a cane. Sometimes his mask was of birth-bark that shone in the pale light in the dusk [we wasingweI gun, shining face article] At other times he wore a horrible mask with a projecting stick for a nose.(Densmore: 1928, p.58-60) Windigo and the Anishinabe Windigokaan, alternative spelling can be extensive, Wihtikokan; wendigokaan; etc, etc. The word broken down seems to find its obvious root in Windigo. What is a Windigo? Numerous papers have been written and innumerable descriptive accounts have been recorded and the distilled meaning is that of a human or non-human that has uncontrollable desires to eat human flesh. For the human, the process of turning windigo is a graded
process, meaning that the process involves steps of gradual and increasing loss of control over this desire for human flesh. This process is known as the windigo psychosis. According to the anthropologists/ethnographers that have made mention of the Windigokaan dance of the Cree (Skinner & Mandelbaum), Ojibway (Skinner) and Assiniboine (Lowie), the translation is the Cannibal cult. Cannibal. Immediately the term summons up all the serious taboos instilled from the Western culture all of us are encultured into to some extent. For readers today, I would make an assumption that not one person out of one million has had a first hand encounter with cannibalism in the classical definition of the word. However for being so far removed from the act of cannibalism, we have probably all had the ALIVE: would you eat someone if you had toproviding you were stuck on top of a mountain etc.? As a response, I have yet to hear someone deny cannibalism if the alternative is certain death. In fact, the discussion usually ends with friends offering friends their choicest parts in the case of death! What are friends for-eh?
Pagak was a skeletal spirit that was an embodiement of hunger and starvation