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In popular culture there is a claim that Native American used a ritual dance in order to encourage rains.

For example, in the How I Met Your Mother episode "Come On" Ted does a rain dance in order to make rain fall (video clip).

Tim Minchin uses rain dancing to explain logic fallacies.

Is there any truth to it? Did Native Americans perform a dancing ritual whose purpose was to encourage more rains or to stop droughts?

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Yes. See: http://www.indians.org/articles/rain-dance.html

This rain dance was meant to bring rain for the entire year or for a specific season.

Other main points:

  • Usually in late August
  • Still performed today
  • Special clothing made just for the rain dances
  • More common in Native American tribes in the dry, Southwestern United States

Elsie Clews Parsons. Some Aztec and Pueblo Parallels. American Anthropologist , New Series, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1933), pp. 611-631

In an Aztec rain dance held every eight years [...]

It was the Aztec belief that in this rain ceremony all the gods were dancing, and therefore the dancers were dressed in diverse fancy costume [...]

Gertrude P. Kurath. Calling the Rain Gods. The Journal of American Folklore , Vol. 73, No. 290 (Oct. - Dec., 1960), pp. 312-316

In winter and spring [the rain gods] are also called in unmasked rain dances by men.

The dance is described:

To lure the rain gods and clouds he beckons with a circling of the wrist

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