HOUGHTON -- Young people of all ages from area schools enjoyed a taste of Native American culture at the Oct. 26 Speakers' Forum sponsored by the Michigan Tech American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) chapter. Several bus loads of students from Houghton, Baraga, Chassell, L'Anse, Watersmeet and Marquette schools filled the Rozsa Center for several hours of Native American music, dance and inspirational talks.
A highlight of the morning was the talk and flute playing by Mark Thunderwolf, a Native American flutist and recording artist of Lakota and Eastern Band Cherokee Wolf Clan descent. Thunderwolf spoke of the importance of Nature in his music.
"I get a lot of inspiration from ... the eagles, the wolves ... the water over bubbling brooks," Thunderwolf said.
He challenged the young people in the audience to change conditions in the world, such as war and global warming, that could deprive them of wildlife and the beauties of nature.
"Wind through the Eagle's Wings," one of several haunting tunes he played, was dedicated to his father.
"When you listen, I want you to be with the eagle," he said.
The eagle, an important bird in Native American traditions, also came alive for the audience in the eagle dance performed by Lowery Begay, who grew up on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona.
Lowery Begay imitates head movements of the eagle as he begins his eagle dance during the Oct. 26 Native American Speakers' Forum in the Rozsa Center. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)
"We're the only ones in the United States allowed to carry the eagle feather," Begay said.
Hoop dancer Dallin Maybee, Northern Arapaho and Seneca, introduced Begay's eagle dance, noting that Native Americans often mimic animals in their songs and dances.
"Why?" he asked. "It's not just a man mimicking an eagle. It's about a man bringing out the best in himself."
Lowery Begay mimics the eagle taking flight in his dance performance during the Oct. 26 Speakers' Forum in the Rozsa Center. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)
Maybee spoke of being raised on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in Western New York, where he had the advantage of learning about his culture from his grandparents.
"I was blessed to have grown up on a reservation," he said.
Hoop dancers Lowery Begay and Dallin Maybee perform together to the accompaniment of the Four Thunders Drum, at left. (Video clip © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)
Maybee recounted his challenges in growing up, dealing with school, taking up hoop dancing and presently studying in law school in order to be able to give something back to his community. He said picking up one hoop at a time in his dance is similar to making one choice at a time in life.
"Everything starts with a choice -- education, success," Maybee said. "I start with one hoop, and I choose to add more hoops (making little choices)."
Dallin Maybee performs a hoop dance. He says the hoops, which he picks up one at a time, represent choices in life. (Video clip © 2007 Gustavo Bourdieu)
Begay added, "You gotta work like a hoop dancer ... pick up the pieces one at a time."
Lowery Begay performs a hoop dance with 15 hoops. The Four Thunders Drum accompanies, at left. (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)
The two dancers also involved the audience with a humorous session on sign language. They made signs representing certain animals and phrases, and members of the audience had to identify them.
Lowery Begay challenges the audience to interpret his sign language. The answer: "a stomach ache." (Photo © 2007 Michele Anderson)
Begay and Maybee have worked together in a theater group, Spirit the 7 Fire.
Lori Muhlig, MTU's Native American Outreach Coordinator, who works for the Educational Opportunity department, said the Speakers' Forum attracted about 650 school children to the Rozsa.
"We also went to schools in L'Anse and Baraga and presented to their whole middle school, so we made contact with at least 1000 children," Muhlig said. "I couldn't do it all, though, without the help of my AISES students (American Indian Science and Engineering Society)."
Editor's Note: The Spirit of the Harvest Powwow, to be held beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, in Michigan Tech's Gates Tennis Center, will also include Native American music and dance. See the schedule of events. The Gates Tennis Center is #50 on the Campus Map.