Brush Dance is a ceremony held to heal a sick child or to pray for a long, healthy life for the child. The dance is somewhat of a social dance where families and villages come together. In the past, the dance would take place in a home of the child: the roof of the plank house would be removed. Today however, dances take place at specific villages where dance pits still remain. More and more families are participating in dances, thus more dances are taking place throughout the summer. The medicine doctor, her helpers (medicine boy and girl), the child, and dance family begin the dance on a Wednesday. The medicine doctor begins the process much sooner. Actual dancing begins on Thursday night, with two dances. The medicine for the dance continues with dancing resuming Saturday night lasting until late Sunday morning and some say the dance ends before the sun rises above the hills. Other local Tribes participate, making up different dance camps. Both females and males dance. Different Tribes take turns hosting dance rounds.
Even if you are not a dancer, every participant has a role at the dance. An overall belief of Yurok people is that you go to the dance with a good heart. This means that you attend with only good thoughts and prayers. You leave all of your anger, meanness, and other bad feelings behind. If you have enemies, you also leave that behind.
Once you arrive on the ceremonial grounds there are a few very important things to remember. Drugs, alcohol, and weapons don’t belong at the dance, for it is a place of prayer and good spirits. Please don’t arrive on dance grounds under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Parking near the pit is for elders and regalia holders. Sometimes participants tend to forget to clean up their messes (garbage), so don’t forget to take care of the dance site!! Spectators can sit on the benches or stand. Many people believe that you do not eat in or around the dance pit and some believe that you do not eat while the dance is taking place. There are designated areas that are “Men’s camp” and women need to make sure that they do not go in these camps or touch the men’s reglia. At some dances, the family hosting the dance will provide a meal before the dance begins. Sometimes visitors will bring items to help with the meal which is always appreciated. Spectators can sit up all night on Saturday to watch the dance. Sunday morning dancers put on their morning reglia. Camps bring out their oldest and most valuable dance reglia. The best songs are sung by the best singers. The dance finishes up early Sunday morning, usually closing with a great meal for all.
If you plan to participate, and need more detailed information about the dance or dancing, go to your family and ask questions. If no one is available in your family, go to a tribal elder, a dance leader, for more information. If you need assistance in contacting someone, you can always contact the Tribe’s Culture committee for assistance. The knowledge is all around and waiting for you. It is up to you to learn and continue who we are as Yurok people.