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INDIAN GAMES AND DANCES 55
The He-de Wa-chi taught the people what this unity really stood for. The central object of the ceremony wras a tree, which was the symbol of the tribe; its branches were as the different groups composing the tribe, the twigs that made up the branches were as the individuals that formed the groups.
The Omaha had special ceremonies for the preparation of the central object. They cut a tree, left a tuft of branches at the top and painted the trunk in alternate bands of red and black. The red bands represented day, the black, night; the decoration as a whole stood for the continuity of life. This pole was planted in a broad open space. As the melodious Call to the Ceremony echoed over the land, the people gathered from their tents. Each one of the ten groups took its respective place and all the groups formed a wide circle about the tree. Every one, down to the little children, carried a twig with leaves. These they held aloft as they made their rhythmic, ceremonial approaches to the tree, and afterward danced about the sacred symbol.
It was a wonderful and a beautiful scene that took place on the prairies years ago, when hundreds of Omahas moved to the rhythm of the sacred songs, waving the green sprays as they danced up to the symbolic tree and circled about it with thanksgiving and joy. It was thus they exemplified tribal unity, wherein every one was a part of the living whole.
This ancient American ceremony should live anew with us wherever we gather to enjoy the delights of nature in goodly company.
Directions. — It may be difficult to prepare a young