O-MOK-SEE: AN INDIAN NAME
The most colorful performance on horseback of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe was the oh-mak-see pass-kan meaning riding big dance.
The second syllable of the first word is pronounced like our English word mock. The last syllable of the second word is sounded like our can. The Blackfeet had no written language, all we can do is render the sounds. There is no incorrect spelling, so long as the sound is correctly presented. One might even desire to leave the second work (meaning dance) off entirely, and simply make it oh-mak-see — riding big.
The Blackfeet riding big dance was not celebrated for some fifty years. All the old people remember it as a very striking performance. It was principally a war ceremony. Before setting out on a mounted expedition against the enemy, the warriors of the camp performed this dance as a part of the prelude of stirring up courage and enthusiasm for battle. The warriors put on their finest dress costumes, decorated and painted their best horses, carrying their war bundles, shields, lances and bonnets. They mounted and gathered at some distance out of sight of the camp. They turned and rode together at full speed into the great camp circle, circled around it once and then rode to the center of the camp. In the center were a number of old men and women who sang special songs and beat drums for the horsemen. The horsemen then rode their trained horses to the rhythm of the singers and drummers. From time to time the riders dismounted and danced about on foot beside their horses, shooting in the air and shouting to one another to be brave when the battle came. If anyone fell from his horse during the ceremony it was considered bad luck would follow.
O-Mok-See is more descriptive and more Western American than other names used for the sport of pattern horse racing. O-Mok-See found its way into our western riding vocabulary in the same manner as the Spanish-American word rodeo. O-Mok-See, historically speaking, was coined by people who were living here long before the Spaniards arrived with rodeo.