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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 20, 2001 - Issue 47


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 Powwow Celebrates Diversity


 by Melanie Brandet-Argus Leader-October 9, 2001


photo courtesy Suzanne Westerly

Bryan Thunder took his first public steps as a grass dancer on Monday, following on the path of his ancestors and cementing a younger tradition of reconciliation in South Dakota.

The 1 1/2-year-old Thunder walked the circle with his mother at a wacipi at the Multi-Cultural Center in Sioux Falls as part of Native American Day.

"This is our life," said the boy's father, Brian Thunder, referring to the powwow. "This is what we do. All different people coming together."

The late Gov. George S. Mickelson started Native American Day as an effort to seek reconciliation between races in South Dakota. The first observance in 1990 marked the end of the Year of Reconciliation.

"He had it in his heart to complete something his father (also a former governor) wanted to do: To improve relations between natives and non-natives," said Patty Evans, a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe and minority student admissions and financial aid counselor at the University of South Dakota.

The state holiday replaced Columbus Day, which was marked Monday in many places in the country.

Rebecca McAllister, program director at the Multi-Cultural Center, said the annual event allows Native Americans to express their culture.

"They are our first Americans," she said. "The rest of us are immigrants and refugees. At this particular time of turmoil overseas, it's a way to recognize both Native American and American cultures."

Men, women and children of all ages donned traditional dancer outfits and swirled around the Multi-Cultural Center's gym floor while three Lakota and Oyate drum groups took turns chant-ing and thumping cowhide drums.

"Come on, dance the circle with your children," master of ceremonies Wayne Evans beckoned to the crowd.

Students from Marty, Flandreau and St. Joseph's Indian schools joined Native American families for Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral prior to the powwow.

Women and children in dance costumes entered the sanctuary. Some children danced in the center aisle to the drum beat of the Hunkpati Drum Group of Fort Thompson.

Bishop Robert Carlson of the eastern South Dakota diocese, asked the congregation for a moment of silence for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

"This year, our celebration takes place against the backdrop of a grieving nation, with its sons and daughters at war," he said at the start of his sermon.

Carlson resumed his homily, saying the Native American culture is expressed in art, song and tradition. He also spoke of Kateri, the daughter of a Mohawk chief, who worked with the sick and dying and serves as a role model for Native American youth.

   Maps by Travel

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