This film is part of Free

Iroquois Rain Dance

Iroquois Earth Songs connect businessman to nature

News 1984 4 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for South West Film and Television Archive


A businessman from Hampshire John Morley is the rainmaker here, a blood brother to a Native American of the Iroquois tribe. He is in full costume performing a traditional rain dance at Burrator Reservoir on Dartmoor in Devon with a contract to provide rain within ten days of signing the Treaty. Traditional dances of the Earth Songs are performed in Native American social gatherings and a rain dance is a simple ritual performed to evoke rain.

To the uninitiated the rain dance has become a cliché for its depiction in American Westerns of the twentieth century but in fact many other more complex social dances exist. Depending on the culture the type of dance and the specifics of the ritual differ. The Iroquois confederacy has Six Nations including Mohawk, Onondage, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora peoples. Their traditional dress for a rain dance includes feathers and turquoise to signify the wind and rain. Gitche Gumee means Big Water, the Native American name for Lake Superior and appears in Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha.