Dancing on Common Ground
Tribal Cultures and Alliances on the Southern Plains
Choice Outstanding Title
Dance, a vital expression of community and spirituality for Native Americans, has been the traditional metaphor for resolving conflict among Southern Plains tribes.
“Meredith shares important insights into the character and values of the Southern Plains Indians towards plotting a more unified strategy for their future development.”
—Western Historical Quarterly
“Meredith combines ‘traditional tribal approaches’ with solid historical research to provide a highly original and informative account of three centuries of Native American life on the Southern Plains.”
—American Historical ReviewSee all reviews...
“Provides important insights regarding the ways in which the Southern Plains tribes can develop a better strategy to deal with federal Indian policy issues.”
—Journal of the West
“Meredith has produced an ambitious and thoughtful study of cultural interaction and exchange among Southern Plains tribes.”
—Great Plains Quarterly
“Enlightening and engaging.”
—Southwestern American Literature
“This unique book combines linguistics, history, archaeology, and anthropology into a whole overview of the development of tribal alliances and self-governance through time. No other scholar addresses so successfully and so well the imagery of political and historical issues through dance.”
—C. Blue Clark, author of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock: Federal-Indian Relations at the Turn of the Century
“This book opens up new relationships in Indian studies, suggesting new interpretations of Indian-White relations, past, present, and future.”
—Charlotte Heth, editor of Native American Dance: Ceremonies and Social TraditionsSee fewer reviews...
War, on the other hand, has been the metaphor for Anglo-Americans. Attacking conflicts in terms of dichotomies—us vs. them, friend vs. foe, civilized vs. savage—the European-influenced U.S. government has created battles out of almost every military, political, and social situation, from the Revolutionary War to the War on Drugs.
Here lies a fundamental cultural difference, says Howard Meredith, that has led to mistrust, poor communication, frustration, and polarization. The Anglo-American assumption that analysis and argument are universal and permanent traits, he contends, is not only erroneous, but has proven detrimental, even devastating, for Native Americans who have not customarily shared those values.
Historically, the U.S. government has tried to disintegrate tribes, alienate, assimilate, divide and conquer. And in the process, it has ignored the positive relationships the tribes had established among themselves and with their physical environment.
Although conflicts have arisen among tribes, Meredith asserts, the Southern Plains peoples have spent the vast majority of their time in mutual support of one another rather than at war. The Wichita, Caddo, Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Apache, Arapaho, Delaware, and others brought together by choice or adversity achieved harmonious coexistence through imagination, mythology, art, dance, commerce, and conservation.
In Dancing on Common Ground, Meredith uses tribal oral histories to describe alliances before the European infiltration and extensive archives, federal documents, and personal interviews to examine the evolution and attempted annihilation of native traditions through the past three centuries. Looking toward the future by assessing the past, he argues that the Southern Plains Indians need to re-establish self-determination, traditional practices and values, and their native languages to overcome the adverse effects of federal paternalism, strengthen tribal relations, and improve economic and social conditions for all people in the Southern Plains.