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Haskell students enjoy sharing culture through traditional dances

Haskell Indian University junior Shay Crowfeather performs a jingle dance during a performance Saturday at the annual Haskell Indian Art Market.

Haskell students Brennah Wahweotten and Oketwsha Roberts say they grew up together.

It may seem odd as Wahweotten, a junior in managerial business, is from Mayetta, and Okekwsha Roberts, a freshman in environmental science, is from Atwood, Okla.

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Jose Santos performs a grass dance at during Haskell student performances Saturday at the Haskell ...

“We grew up going to powwows together,” Wahweotten said. “Our parents and families are out in California at a big powwow this weekend.”

Saturday, the two danced with other members of the Haskell Beading Club at the annual Haskell Indian Art Market. Both entered the school’s powwow arena as fancy shawl dancers.

“I have jingle and traditional dresses,” Wahweotten said. “But I decided to do fancy shawl because it’s a little more improvisational or free form.”

The beading club’s activities are limited to dancing, Wahweotten said. She and Roberts would be attending competitive powwows together during many weekends this fall, she said. Those are larger gatherings where they perform with other Native Americans in front of knowledgeable crowds.

It was a bit different Saturday and for the student performances slated for 2 and 4 p.m. Sunday at the Art Market. Before each dance Saturday, the announcer explained the history and significance of the different dances to onlookers with little or no knowledge of the dances and styles.

Wahweotten said she enjoyed introducing the dances to those unfamiliar with them.

“It’s nice because a lot of people don’t know much about our culture and ceremonies,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to share our culture with them.”

Another member of the beading club, Shay Crowfeather, a junior in elementary education, said she would share her culture through dances at schools, libraries, club meetings and other events throughout the coming year.

“I love educating people and telling them about our beautiful way of life,” she said.

A Hunkpapa Lakota from Minnesota, Crowfeather said she had been dancing since she could walk, and like Wahweotten and Roberts, attends competitive powwows throughout the summer with her family. She performed Saturday as a jingle dancer, wearing a dress she made herself last spring.

“I’ve only just started sewing,” she said. “My mom and aunt are trying to get me to sew so I can make dresses for my sisters.”

The dress, with its silver bells and intricate bead work her father bought for her, would be handed down to a younger family member, Crowfeather said.

“It’s a work of art. Indians are great artists, as you can see,” she said, waving her hand at the booths at the art show.

Contact Douglas County reporter Elvyn Jones

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