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 Stomp Dance
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The Official Site of the Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Stomp Dance

The traditional dance of the Cherokee is the stomp dance or sacred dance site. The sacred fire is kept burning constantly which is built by the fire keeper and his assistant. A firekeeper and his assistant begins early dawn starting the official fire. He begins with small slivers of wood, innermost part of an oak tree called the sponge, flint and some rock are used to trigger a spark. A medicine fire is also built where a small piece of meat (chicken or beef) is then thrown in and pipes are lit from the fire and a prayer follows. The firekeeper does his job so well he doesn't have to come back until later in the day.

Sunrise, the men sat around talking then later that morning the women prepare a meal for the day which consists of traditional and modern food such as brown beans, cornbread, all kinds of pies, cakes, homemade biscuits, salad, ice tea, coffee, kool aid, chicken, and if in season, kanuchi, wild onions with scrambled eggs, bean bread and so much more.

Later that afternoon sermons are held in the Cherokee Language. The sermon includes telling all to love all mankind.

A stickball game is played, which is a Cherokee tradition that resembles the American LaCrosse.

At sundown sermons continue. Also each clan member takes turns by taking seven puffs of the old ceremonial pipe.

The chief, medicine men and elders hold a meeting then the call for the first dance, then the second call. The first dance is by invitation, tribal elders, elders, medicine men and clan heads.

The member's gather to visit, feast, and dance for into the night. It is a holy place to worship God. No littering, liquor and rowdy behavior rules are written in the Cherokee language and posted on a board hung up on a tree. The participants include a leader, assistants and one or more "shell-shaker girls" who wear leg rattles traditionally made out of turtle shells filled with pebbles but today some use cans filled with pebble to provide rhythmic accompaniment while they dance around the fire. The ceremonial observance involves sacrificing meat to the sacred fire at the center of the grounds, taking medicine and going to water or river for ritual cleansing.

Their "Bible" is not written on paper. It is illustrated in a series of pictures woven into seven wampum belts, which are shown only on rare occasions. The belts are very old, and are made of pearls and shell beads, woven with seaweed fibers from the Gulf of Mexico. The history behind the belt is that many years ago, the tribe was preparing to go on to war with another tribe when the medicine men foresaw which would survive, and cut the original wampum belt into seven pieces, giving one to each warrior. After the war, the belts were scattered, some being hidden and disappearing, the last one was recovered by Redbird Smith around 80 years ago.

There are seven arbors encircling the sacred fire. Each arbor represents the seven clans. The seven clan are: Wolf (a-ni-wa-ya), Wild Potato (a-ni-go-ta-ge-wi), Red Paint (a-ni-wo-di), Bird Clan (a-ni-tsi-s-qua), Long Hair Clan (a-ni-gi-lo-hi), Blue Clan (a-ni-sa-ho-ni), and the Deer Clan (a-ni-a-ha-wi).

The fire is very important to the Cherokee tribe. It is built at the bottom of a pit way below the ground and burns constantly. When the fire at another stomp ground goes out, it can be rekindled by long pieces of cane thrust down into the central blaze.

Today we have over 195,000 Cherokee. Not all belong to the Stomp Dance. We have some who have chosen other denominations such as Baptist, Matodist, Catholic, etc.