Sacred Principles of the Dance

The collection of teachings, Teniwaa [pronounced den-eh-wah(p)], is offered to guide our dance, our circle, and our lives. These are guidelines for our actions within our community, with each other, and with the greater world community. It is hoped that both old and new dancers will review these teachings often, since they are something to grow with as individuals and as a community, both inside and outside the ceremony. We also hope these teachings will serve as a foundation for deeper discussion, and not as the final word on these things. They teach an attitude of heart and mind— they are not dogmas or laws. Teniwaa is a Shoshone word for that tribe’s ancient, unwritten code governing behavior. Our Teniwaa is not specific to one tribe, but draws from Native American tribal knowledge across this continent. Each of us understands these guidelines differently and we do our best to live them with the guidance of Spirit and the counsel of our elders.

    Teniwaa is a Shoshone word for unwritten code governing traditional behavior. We are representatives of Spirit and must conduct ourselves with integrity in a good way…

We have a reciprocal relationship with Spirit, with the natural world that we are a part of, and with each other. We strive to be humble people, and recognize that we are not the Power that flows through the world. At the same time, every one of us is a reflection of that power, the source of all life. As such, we are representatives of Spirit and must conduct ourselves with integrity, in a good way. We are a voice for Spirit in the larger human world community, and thus must stand strong in what we believe, in how we express that belief, and in how we live our beliefs in our lives. We in the Dance community must live our Truth.

We all stand in unity in this dance of life, and we all have our place in the circle. We value every being in our circles and respect the unique gifts, perspectives and roles every being brings to the community. Each of us deserves to be treated with the same love and respect. In our sacred hoop all colors of the races— yellow, red, black, and white— all genders and all ages stand as one. We cannot live as a true community without realizing we are relatives. We are relatives to each other, to the greater human community, to the plants, animals, and winged ones. We are the younger relatives of the Spirit world; we are the children of our father Spirit, and our mother Earth.

In order for spiritual power to be able to move through us, we must learn to be pure conduits and good vessels. We have to be clean hollow bones for spirit, or we can do nothing. We are only the channels that direct power, the living beings through which it flows. We can only be clean bones when our lives are in order and when our lives and relationships are in balance. These are guidelines to help bring our lives into balance, so as to serve all our relations, our father Spirit and our mother Earth.

Teniwaa For Our Dance & For Our Lives

1. Everyone is welcome around the Tree of Life who comes in a good way. Our diversity is one of our greatest gifts from spirit. In every belief, in every system, there is the seed of Spirit. It is crucial to respect other spiritual pathways without imposing our beliefs on others.

2.  Pray alone, pray with other people, and pray often. Spirit will listen and answer. Speak in a simple language with your heart. Remember that you are the hollow bone. Sacred tools can support your communication with Spirit, but they are merely tools. They will not give you favor or status in the eyes of Spirit or the people.

3.  The power of Spirit and the forces of nature belong to Spirit. We are merely the conduits, the “hollow bones,” and the power is manifest through the circle of many, not the one.

4.  Offer every part of your life up to Spirit in ceremony and refrain from the ordinary, habitual ways of releasing your energies, directing them consciously into your prayers and intentions. In this way, we respect the traditions of the dance and we honor the power within ourselves and others as hollow bones during that time.

5.  Respect yourself and others, and do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your road and yours alone; others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you. With ourselves, each other, our elders, and our world, we express and live our truth in a way that respects us all.

6. Make conscious decisions as to who you will be and how you will react in this world. Be responsible for your own actions, and do your best at all times.

7.  Strive for honesty with yourself and others. Be truthful at all times; honesty is the test of one’s will within the universe.

8.  Be true to yourself first, for you cannot nurture and help others if you cannot help yourself first. Keep yourself balanced. Your mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical selves need to be strong, pure and healthy. Work the body to strengthen the mind. Grow rich in Spirit through prayer, love, and respect for all things on a daily basis.

9.  Be compassionate with everyone, especially those who appear to be lost on their path or in personal challenge. Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy, lust, greed, and the quest for power over others, stem from a lost and imbalanced soul. Pray that they will once again find their highest good.

10.  Respect and honor other people’s thoughts, feelings, wishes, and words. Avoid assuming for others and never walk between two people talking or interrupt, mock, or mimic them. Allow each person the right to personal expression. Spirit may be speaking through them.

11.  Listen deeply and think before you speak. Realize that your words have great power and a life by themselves when brought into this world. Be mindful that you do not always know how what you say will be heard and interpreted.

12.  Speak well of each other, and never gossip or speak about any person or persons in a poor or bad way. The negative energy that you put out in the universe will multiply when it returns to you.

13.  Avoid hurting the hearts of others. The poison of pain and deceitfulness will return to you. Bad and hurtful thoughts and actions cause illness of the mind, body and spirit. Practice optimism and balance in all things, and look at things from another angle or point of view. Be good to each other!

14.  All people make mistakes, and all mistakes can be forgiven, so do not pass judgment. It is learning from the mistakes that matters. Everyone is capable of growing and changing; allow them to do so! Remember, every person will have Spirit to answer to, not you.

15.  Respect and honor the individual personal safety and sacredness of every person’s body, emotions, mind and spirit. Respect the personal space of other people at all times. Do not exploit another person for physical, emotional, or financial gain.

16.  Respect and do not touch the personal property of others, especially the sacred and religious objects of another person. Remember that there is a process to acquire and learn how to work with sacred tools, and that these tools are not objects— they are respected as sacred beings.

17.  Do not take or appropriate what is not yours, whether from a person, a community, or from a culture. If it was not earned or given, it is not yours.

18.  Treat guests in your gatherings and home with great honor and consideration. Give them the best of everything you have— the best food, the best bed, and the deepest respect.

19.  Share your good fortune with others. When Spirit blesses you, give back! Be an active participant in the cycle of reciprocity. Remember to thank Spirit for this day and this life.

20. Nature is not FOR us; we are PART of it, and it is PART of us! Everything in Nature is a part of the great world hoop, and everything is a sacred being. Carry your own weight, allow all beings their life, and complete your circles.

21.  Children are the seeds of the future. Respect and honor them in your conduct as adults, in ceremony and in the home. Plant love in their hearts for all people, for all creatures of the earth, for the plants— for everything on the great hoop. Show them how to love the Spirit, and how to pray. Water them with wisdom, and share the lessons of your own life. Give them space to grow and follow their own life path.

22.  Dance Elders, Spirit Keepers, Bundle Keepers, Community Leaders and members of the Working Circle of the Dance Communities are the role models for the larger circle of people who participate in the dance and must lead by example. They will always be held to a higher standard under these teachings and guidelines.

23.  Honor and respect our older people and elders. They are our history; they are where we come from, and where we are going. They have kept the traditions of our families and our communities alive. They have much to teach … if we only will listen.

We are relatives to each other, to the greater human community, to the plants, animals, and winged ones. We are the younger relatives of the Spirit world; we are the children of our father Spirit, and our mother Earth.