How to Perform a Raindance

by Linda Covella

Native Americans performed the raindance to bring rain to help crops grow and produce a bountiful harvest, especially in the Southwest where the climate provided little rain, and in August, the hottest and driest month. Historically, both men and women performed the raindance. For most other ceremonies and rituals, only men participated. Today, some American Indian tribes still perform the raindance. During a bad drought in 1988, Leonard Crow Dog traveled to northern Ohio from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota to perform a raindance.

Form two lines parallel to each other and about four feet apart. Men stand in one line; women in the other.

Step forward with your left foot.

Raise your right foot while moving forward and bring that foot to the floor. The men can stomp more vigorously than the women.

Continue to step forward in this way--left foot, right foot higher, stomp to floor. Unlike other Native American dances performed in a circle, rain dancers move in a square pattern around the sides of the room or area in which they’re dancing.

During one measure of the song, and while moving forward, face to the right. During the next measure, face to the left. A zigzagging pattern is formed as you continue on in this manner.

Between measures, dancers can stop and twirl in imitation of the wind, which is showing the promise of rain. The women may chant or sing the song that’s playing, and the men can yelp with the beat.

Items you will need

  • Comfortable clothing
  • Moccasins or tennis or aerobic shoes
  • Music with a steady beat featuring a flute or drum


  • Find authentic Native American music to accompany your dance. See “Resources."
  • For an actual performance, use accessories traditionally worn by American Indians specifically for a raindance. Feathers and turquoise incorporated into headdresses represented the wind and rain. Men and women wear masks made from feathers, horsehair and goat hair, and strips of turquoise. The women’s masks hid their faces, their shawls covered their hands, and they wore long black dresses, making their bare feet the only parts of their bodies exposed.


  • Dance as slowly or vigorously as your health allows.
  • Do not do this dance if your doctor has restricted your activity.

About the Author

A writer for over 25 years, Linda Covella boasts a background in art, computers, business and restaurant reviewing. She holds degrees in art, mechanical drafting, manufacturing management and a Certificate for Professional Technical Writing. She has a Bachelor of Science from San Jose State University.

Photo Credits

  • Brandi Lambert/Demand Media