There is something almost mystical and magical about the traditions of the Native American culture…something that can inspire just about any generation of Cascade residents that takes the time to learn them.
And plenty did recently, when 286 people from all age groups packed the Wisner Center on June 30 for “one of the best programs I’ve ever had the honor to host for KDL,” according to Ashley Smolinski, branch outreach & programming specialist at the Cascade Library.
Reg Pettibone, a full-blooded Woodland Native American from the Ho-Chunk Nation, along with his wife Marca, from the Paiute Nation, presented a beautiful and rich Native American dance experience at the Cascade library. With 10 dancers who had been dancing since the age of two, they shared the values of their tribes, including valuing the Earth, family, and honoring their elders.
Smolinski said that one of the really unique aspects of the program was the way that people in the audience responded. “There were quite a few older couples who came, as well as families without children,” she said. “Emotions ran high as Reg talked about creation stories, the dance of the Jingle dancer who danced as a prayer for those who were lost due to sickness, and the reverent dance of the grass dancers who prepared the way for the ceremonial dances of the traditional women’s and men's dances.
“By sharing the stories and the cultural connections surrounding the traditions, Reg made this experience really meaningful and took many, many questions from the audience, in addition to staying a long time for people to talk to the dancers,” she added.
Before each dance, Pettibone explained its significance and set the stage for audience participation with the content and the message of the dance. For example, he asked each family to hold hands and thank their parents, for people to think of a loved one in need during the Jingle dance, and to consider the importance of creating a sacred place during the grass dance.
Here is a sampling of what some in the audience had to say about the program:
· "This was wonderful. I had no idea what to expect, but this blew my mind. I've never seen anything like this before."
· "I go to many of your programs, and this one was really special to me."
· "I'm from Chile and I attend many powwows and religious ceremonies of other cultures. Thank you for bringing this here. It meant a lot for me to see that the way they dance look like my people. "
· "My kids really need to see this. I wish my grandchildren were here."
· "What a performance, I really appreciated that he took so much time talking to the children. They asked some great questions, didn't they?"
Another indication of the audience’s interest in the program came after its conclusion when a significant number of attendees selected books from our Indigenous people's collection. “By having a beautiful and updated collection we were able to offer them another medium to receive more great information about the culture,” Smolinski said.
The Native American program received financial support from the Friends, along with support from KDL and a grant.
Ashley Smolinski (left) and Reg Pettibone pose with one of the many children who enjoyed the dancers