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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America



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Honoring the past to ensure the future


by Helen Lau Running - The Hopi-Navajo Observer


FLAGSTAFF — After surviving tours of duty in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, Navajo warrior Sergeant Lance C. Davison returned home to entrust his family staff for safekeeping to his father, John.

Sergeant Lance C. DavisonThe passing of the staff was one of many National Dedication Day Observance Powwow activities held at Fort Tuthill May 29—certainly an appropriate ceremony for Memorial Day. Attired in his Marine Corps dress blues, Sgt. Davison embraced his father in the presence of other war veterans. Navajo Code Talkers Alfred Peaches, Arthur Hubbard Sr., Lloyd Hubbard (one of the 29 original code talkers) Ted Draper Sr. and Dan Akee were witnesses. Rounding out the group were Thomas Vegas and Bill Beaver, also important veterans of foreign wars honored for their heroic contributions to the people and lands of this nation. Sgt. Davison's dad pointed out it was a singular honor for him and his family to stand among the veterans to be recognized at this significant Memorial Day Pow Wow Honor Dance Day.

Drums beat, the flags of the color guard furled in the steady and gentle late spring breeze, the dazzle of the dancers dresses sparkled in the afternoon sunlight, while the singers and drum groups sang and the dancers capered. Throughout the Ponderosa pine trees just south of Flagstaff, on that blue sky day, the announcer's voice rang out "It is a very special day across Turtle Island today!"

Flag Bandana GirlPowwows are ceremonial occasions where native people dressed in tribe specific colorful regalia and ceremonial dress, come together to dance, to drum and sing. They honor the memory and traditions of their elders, relatives and ancestors and, in so doing, preserve the culture, traditions and knowledge of native lifeways for present and future generations. It is a primal way of honoring, of staying connected to the memory of loved ones who have passed on. It's also about being in relationship with the earth and its life forms and staying close to loved ones in the present. Family members, friends, citizens of this small city assembled at the Fort Tuthill fairgrounds to witness, give thanks and honor the warriors of past wars such as World War II ad the present Afghanistan and Iraq wars. They gathered to acknowledge present and ongoing duty for the future preservation of peace and security for all the peoples of these United States.

The color guard, preceded by Kiowa Sioux honor dancer Gregory La Pointe, led the Grand Entry of the 85 dancers performing that day into the arena. A spectacular array of colors, leather with feathers and intricate beaded designs, all merged ensemble into a smooth and graceful movement onto the leveled sand performing space of the arena.

The theme of this National Dedication Day Observance Day Pow Wow was to bless, honor and thank veterans and their families for the contribution of the efforts of their loved ones to all wars, past and present.

"It is a sacrifice everyone in a family makes when a warrior is sent to fight the wars in foreign lands," John Davison said.

CodetalkersThe honored veterans, dressed in their ceremonial shawls, eagle feather fans in one hand and sacred gourds and decorated bow guards and maniples on the other, took their positions on the perimeter of the circle arena to dance. Their wives wrapped in their colorful and beautifully designed shawls and dresses, children, parents, grandparents, loved ones stood behind them. Fringes on their shawls gently swayed to the sound of the drums, synchronously echoing their supple and graceful swaying movements, at one with the honored warrior of their family.

The sound of drumming is powerful. It echoes the beat of the human heart. It is the sound of the life force. It reverberates and permeates the air with its feeling, the trees, the skies, the ground. Everything all around the sound seems to become one with it. It merges with the human heart and spirit and guides the feet of the dancers into the intricate and rhythmic patterns, which imitate the movements of animals the birds, the buffalo and many of the living systems still inhabiting the earth. It is as if the sound of the drum and the sound of high pitched falsetto singing human voices engender life to continue. There were several drumming groups who came to drum, sing and pay their respects to the veterans being honored that day. Situated like precious stones of a necklace on the perimeter of the arena were The Rocky Park drum group, The Bear Shields, Golden Bear, Star House and most especially Cozad the Kiowa drum group who sang several very rare and old songs. They sang to give honor and respect to the veterans, the code talkers and the community as they held their places, stayed and continued drumming far into the early summer night.

At this National Memorial Day Dedication Observance Pow Wow, the tradition that dances are prayers of honor, thanksgiving and beauty continued.

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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, 2004 of Vicki Barry and Paul Barry.

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