Embracing culture through tradition

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Dallas Arcand, a professional hoop dancer, performed at the NASS National Native American Heritage Month celebration. Photo by Nichelle Taylor.

Embrace culture.

If there’s one takeaway from the University of Northern Colorado’s Native American Student Services’ Dallas Arcand Dance Showcase, it is to accept everyone’s cultures, and especially to embody your own wholeheartedly.

Dallas Arcand, a professional hoop dancer, performed at the NASS National Native American Heritage Month celebration. Photo by Nichelle Taylor.

The event, designed to celebrate National Native American Heritage Month, lit up the Lindou Auditorium Wednesday evening. Delicious food of bison and elk sausage and “3 Sisters,” a traditional dish made of corn chips, white beans, butternut squash, queso fresco, and cilantro lining the front tables welcomed in the hungry-bellied crowd. So many people were lined out of the door just to attend, so far that the start time had to be pushed back half an hour. When the highly anticipated three-time World Champion Hoop Dancer, Dallas Arcand, emerged from behind the screen, everyone applauded.

Arcand stood on stage, introducing his history and facts about Native American culture. Arcand is from a reservation in Canada, the Plains Cree. Arcand explained aspects of his culture such as dancing and ceremonies as well as difficult issues. According to Arcand, there are many indigenous women going missing and an unnerving amount of racism, but he discussed how indigenous people have learned to adapt. Arcand recognizes there are many things that still need improving and hopes through events such as these, little by little, we can all make a difference.

The celebrated hoop dancer began with an honor song, a traditional start to any celebration or gathering. The sound of the drum and his voice echoed throughout the room, and according to Arcand, the song honored the entire evening.

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Arcand also stressed the importance of diversity within each culture. Being from the Plains Cree tribe, he takes in every moment to live up to his cultural identity through his career. In addition to being a full-time hoop dancer, Arcand is a flutist, writer, documentary-maker and encourages everyone to live circular.

“Everything is a circle: the earth, the sun, the moon, even the Milky Way,” the hoop dancer said during his performance.

The hoops represent living circular, constant harmony and despite a dark history of poor Native American treatment in Canada, healing. The original hoops were made of red willow wood and are typically used for ceremony purposes while modern hoops are used for showmanship. Ceremonies are never for show.

In the beginning, hoops were made for dream catchers, baskets and even original drums. Arcand explained that hoops are a big part of some nations in Native American culture. Nowadays, it is more common for them to be used for traditional hoop dances. Each tribe has their own variation, and many have adaptations that are more contemporary.

With the background of the culture, Arcand began with his “Mother Earth” song on the flute and a series of hoop dances; the first was the “One Hoop Dance,” and the second was with 13 hoops, representing each moon of the year.

Arcand said he believes it is important to keep in touch with the heritage and dance.

“It is [the] way of life. A way to maintain and strengthen cultural practices, languages and identities,” Arcand said. “Reclaim our culture, and hold it dearly.”

Allina Condie, a NASS student employee of, attended and helped set up the event.

“It is a great honor to have someone who identifies the same as me to represent our community,” Condie said after the performance.

National Native American Heritage Month serves to spread awareness about the hardships the community has gone through.

Kaila Ward, the event coordinator for NASS, was very happy with the presentation.

“There are negative portrayals of the culture, so the best way to encourage an accurate representation is to use showcases like this,” Ward said.

If you would like to see more from NASS, visit their website to learn more: https://www.unco.edu/native-american-student-services/

 

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