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  • Writer's pictureVivian C Olsen


MEMORIES OF ANIMAL DANCES Some of my fondest memories of living in New Mexico for 26 years are of the Animal Dances preformed each winter at the San Ildefonso Pueblo north of Albuquerque. I continued to attend for several years, heading out early in the morning and driving north from Socorro with my friend in time to see the dances begin. The mornings held a chill from the winter's air which was perfumed by the smell of piñon smoke coming from the chimneys. Pueblo people wrapped in colorful wool blankets filled the plaza outside the dance area along with many visitors from the surrounding towns, all gathered for the other-worldly ceremony about to begin. The Pueblo Dancers, dressed in beautiful garments and head-dresses depicting various animals, slowly filed out one by one from the depths of the Kiva into the huge central plaza. The colorful row of drummers dressed with head bands, and heavy jewelry of turquoise and silver, began to beat their drums and chant as they walked side by side into the plaza ahead of the dancers. Following them were the many Deer dancers wearing real deer antlers on their heads and moving warily as they carefully placed their stick fore-legs. Next came the Big Horned Sheep dancers wearing full sets of large sheeps’ horns, and then finally the big Buffalo dancers, always my favorites, with their huge massive shapes topped by a Buffalo’s furry mane and sharp horns. In between the groups of animals were warriors, and maidens and youngsters, and many other participants in this amazing spectacle.  It went on for hours, drums beating with men singing, dancers slowly moving in a big circle, and Me, among many others, taking photos of this wonderful Native American ceremony. Vivian Olsen August 3, 2018

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