In his book, Indian Boyhood, Charles Eastman recounts a Metis bush dance that he witnessed as a young boy. According to Eastman, after a successful winter buffalo hunt, his band of Dakota Sioux were invited to attend the half-breeds' dance. Eastman didn't realize that the new year begins in mid-winter, as the Sioux counted that the year starting when the winter ends.
The dance took place in a log cabin along the Souris River, near Sawyer, North Dakota. According to Eastman:
"I thought it was the dizziest thing I ever saw. One man sat in a corner, sawing away at a stringed board [fiddle], and all the while he was stamping the floor with his foot and giving an occasional shout. When he called out, the dancers seemed to move faster".
"The men danced with women--something that we Indians never do--and when the man in the corner shouted they would swing the women around. It looked very rude to me, as I stood outside with the other boys and peeped through the chinks in the logs. At one time a young man and woman facing each other danced in the middle of the floor. I thought they would surely wear their moccasins out against the rough boards; but after a few minutes they were relieved by another couple".
Eastman continued: "Then an old man with long curly hair and a fox-skin cap danced alone in the middle of the room, slapping the floor with his moccasined foot in a lightning fashion that I have never seen equaled. He seemed to be a leader among them. When he had finished, the old man invited our principal chief into the middle of the floor, and after the Indian had given a great whoop, the two drank in company. After this, there was so much drinking and loud talking among the men, that it was thought best to send us children back to the camp".
Adapted from Indian boyhood, by Eastman, Charles Alexander, 1858-1939, (1911)
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities