Men stand behind warbonnets before start of Warbonnet Dance on New Year's Eve.
By LORI ANN EDMO
FORT HALL — Prayers were said and fresh air breathed into eagle feathers at the annual Warbonnet Dance New Year’s Eve at Shoshone-Bannock Jr./Sr. High School.
Activities began with a feast followed by 49 songs being sung around the gym.
Exhibition dances were done, along with round and owl dances.
The shake, buffalo and feast dance were done. Gifferd Osborne, Chasen Coby, James Osborne and Livingston Papse Jr. danced the feast dance. Darla Morgan provided the chokecherries for it.
Various families brought out 14 bonnets to be aired and blessed as the men danced first with the bonnets on then the women’s song was sung with the women dancing next around the gym.
Ladies wearing warbonnets during the women's song during the ceremony.
Men’s leader Gifferd Osborne said the dance began back in the late 50s or early 60s as his grandfather Leonard Edmo (now deceased) brought it over from Wyoming via Alfred Nagitsy and Sam Deepwater. Leonard was the men’s leader and Phoebe Ponzo was the women’s leader. After Phoebe, Norma Edmo Osborne resumed the women’s leader position after Ponzo then she handed it down to her daughter Kimberly Nummie Osborne.
Gifferd said the dance significance is about prayers as some of the bonnets including Lionel Boyer’s late grandfather Ira Nunuvoo's bonnet that is over 100 years old. The Boyer family brought four bonnets to be blessed and aired.
“We air these feathers out once a year,” Gifferd said noting a woman is not to touch them but have the bonnets placed on their head from the male dancer. “These things have been taught to us – things to carry one and have the understanding it belongs in Fort Hall,” he continued. It’s done once a year on New Year’s Eve dancing out the old year and bringing the New Year in.
“We hope for better things, life, our water and our animals,” Gifferd said. “That eagle feather is the closest we get to the Creator – it’s where our prayers go to, the things we wear are not to play with,” noting being the leader is a responsibility. He added none of it is done for money, “We don’t do that.” However if there are visitors a blanket dance may be done where donations are given and it’s split among the visitors to help with travel. He also said some groups may be do fundraisers but they’re asked to explain what it is for.
After the Warbonnet Dance ended those present round danced until the New Year.