weehki kaloosioni: waapicahkihkwa ‘New Word: shaker cans’

Normally, this time of year we would have had our Annual Winter Gathering filled with lots of socializing, fun, games and one of our big events of the year, stomp dance. Stomp dance is a common intertribal dance that has been around for a very long time and is still a big part of the culture of communities in Oklahoma as well as the Southeast, such as the Shawnee, Creek, Euchee, Cherokee and of course, Myaamia!

A young girl receives help from her father in lacing her shaker cans while her family watches
Young shakers get assistance in tying their waapicahkihkwa ‘shaker cans.’
Photo by Doug Peconge

Stomp dance is a leading dance in which a line of dancers spirals around a fire. The men sing in a call and response style, and the women provide the rhythm for the dance with large rattle, called shakers, that are tied to their lower legs. We’ve had stomp dance in our community for a very long time, but we currently have no record of a word for these shakers. The most common type of shakers worn today are made of tin cans linked together and filled with river rock.

A closer view of how the tin cans are put together with leather to make shaker cans
A close up of waapicahkihkwa ‘shaker cans.’
Photo by Jonathan M. Fox

Modeling off of existing Myaamia words and looking at other related languages, such as Shawnee, we came up with a new term for shaker cans: waapicahkihkwa. The first part of this word, waapi-, means “white” and the last part, –ahkihkw- means “kettle”, which can then be translated as “tin can”. One aspect that makes shaker cans different from just tin cans is the ending of the word. For a tin can, which is an inanimate object, we would say waapicahkihkwi, which has an -i at the end. For a shaker can, because it has a specific and strong cultural importance, it has an -a at the end. This difference between -i and -a in Myaamiataweenki is common to differentiate between things being inanimate, common items, and special or culturally important items. 

A woman with shaker cans during a dance
A shaker in the stomp dance circle.
Photo by Jonathan M. Fox

If you would like to watch an example of a Stomp Dance, we recommend Muscogee Creek Festival – 3 Stomp Dancing posted by SmithsonianNMAI on YouTube.

Featured image by Doug Peconge

One Comment Add yours

  1. Teresa Bradskey says:

    The shakers (cans) are replacements for turtle shells which are much more valuable and therefore costly . The origin of the dance is that of the Creek (Euchee) as well as most of the other civilized tribes. It seems that the Delaware and Loyal Shawnee also picked up the dance from the Cherokee prior to removal. But I know you have much more access to that history.

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