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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 18, 2003 - Issue 98


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'The Drums are My Medicine'

by Corrine Olson Argus Leader
credits: photo by Paul Barry

Emmet Eastman (left) dancing in Mankato, MN Sept. 2001Above the drums and the announcer's voice, one sound was a near constant at the Native American Day powwow Monday - the bells of Emmett Eastman.

Eastman, 71, took few breaks as dancing proceeded throughout the afternoon at the Multi-Cultural Center in downtown Sioux Falls.

"I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees," said the Wahpeton, N.D., man, explaining why he keeps on dancing. "The drums are my medicine."

While even teenagers and children took a breather during the dances, Eastman kept circling the floor in a traditional outfit that featured bells on his ankles. He came to Sioux Falls on Monday after attending other powwows over the weekend.

A traditional dancer, Eastman didn't start dancing at powwows until 20 years ago. He used to go to powwows and watch, but dancing didn't appeal to him.

That's all changed. "I run marathons, and I know about a runner's high. I get a dancing high, and it's much better," he said.

Alexis Williams, 11, understands that feeling. A student at St. Joseph's Indian School in Chamberlain, she has been dancing since age 2.

"My mom took me to a powwow, and when I saw the dancers, my mom said, "Do you want to dance with them?'" she said. She did, and she's been dancing ever since.

A powwow has been at the Multi-Cultural Center every Native American Day since 1998.

Qadir Aware, director of the center, said it was gratifying to see the standing-room-only crowd gather for a meal followed by dancing.

The center set up 500 chairs, but people also lined the walls of the gymnasium at the center.

"The public can learn and share the music, the dancing and the culture," he said.

Throughout the event, announcer Wayne Evans of Vermillion told the crowd that the powwow wasn't only for Native Americans, at one point announcing a dance for children.

"We want all children out there. This includes our nonfeathered friends," he said. Later he told them, "Dance your style. If you dance the polka, that's OK."

Patricia Evans, a member of the committee that initiated reconciliation efforts under Gov. George Mickelson, said she's pleased to see those efforts being discussed again by Gov. Mike Rounds.

"This is a celebration of our uniqueness," she said, referring to the powwow. "It brings together the community so we can get together and learn about our differences."

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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