February 19th, 2014 Last Updated on: February 19th, 2014
Interview by Dr. Dawn Karima, Contributing Editor
Q) It's great to visit with you!!! What are some of the facts you'd like us to know about you?
A) I am not only a Jingle Dancer, but I teach powwow dancing to the Native youth (Tachi Youth Dance Group) of the Tachi-Yokut Tribe. I am also a Belly Dancer and I bead, draw, paint, do quillwork and love to teach Native art. I am a short Lakota woman of only 5 feet and because of that people believe I am a teen dancer in the Adult Categories.
I am an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. I have 3 children, Thomas 17, Grace 14 and Lily 9, and I am married to Truman Baga for about 18 years.
Q) What is your Native heritage? What are some of your tribal values that shape your character? How so?
A) I am Sicangu Lakota/So.Ute/Apache and I was raised by my Lakota Grandmother Grace Valandra. Because I was raised by our family elder, I was taught a lot of Lakota family structure and Virtues. I believe that this foundation has made me a strong person.
Q) What do powwows mean to you? How would you describe the meaning of powwows to someone who had never been to one? Why should they attend?
A) Powwows for me is more than just contesting, its a way of life, a way to share our beliefs in the circle. Growing up I traveled
with my auntie to both ceremonies and pow wows, so to me they are the same, a life style a culture. You can't have one without the other. PowWows are social yes, but also have their ceremony within them as well, like the naming ceremony to an adoption to a give-away in memory of or to celebrate. I feel a sense of peace when I am dancing and around our beautiful people.
When I find out the person I encounter has never heard of a powwow or when I take the Tachi Youth Dance Group to perform for a school or organization, I share with them how it's a celebration for all of our Tribal Nations of United States and Canada to share and come together. The dances have their origins but also allows us to share them and dance them together no matter which Tribal Nation we come from.
Q) As a Jingle Dancer, you have a tremendous role in healing and spirituality. Please share with us?
A) The Jingle Dress is a healing dress. And because of that, after returning to dance again, I went to the Jingle Dress for that reason. I believe in the purpose of the dress, the origin and the healing properties of the dress. I wish I could have meet the Late Maggie White, she is my inspiration behind the dress. When I get ready for the pow wow I remember this. I feel peaceful and blessed to wear the dress. I believe that if you are contemporary Jingle Dancer, you must never forget the purpose of the dress.
When I dance in the circle I try to let go of all the negative in my head and any of the negative energy. I remember that when I dance that I may be blessing someone with peace, healing and even making them smile and feel good about themselves when watching me. It's an energy thing and I hope every time I dance I can touch someone in a positive healing way. Even in contest dancing I remember this.
Q) How lovely! What happens to your spirit as you dance and live your Native ways?
A) My Lakota Traditional name is Iyo'cokan'win (Woman in the Center) and in order to find balance and be spiritually connected to yourself you must remember to find your ‘center'. We call the Sacred Center “Ho'Cokan”.I believe the pow wow circle has a Ho'cokan. I believe in our cannunpa, the 7 sacred ceremonies are a way of life to me, a spiritual tradition. Because of this I smudge and pray. Seeing spirituality in the dance circle influences me to keep dancing. We may all come from different tribes and each tribal pow wow will reflect their tribal spiritual beliefs. Because of this all, it influences me to keep dancing. I grew up around ceremonies and pow wows. So it was second nature to me.
Q) How did you choose your dance category? What does dancing your particular style mean to you?
A) As a Junior to teen dancer I danced Fancy shawl because of the high energy and beauty of how the shawl moves. After I stopped dancing in my late teen years and then returning as an adult dancer I returned as a Jingle Dancer because I believed in the dress and the dance.
Q) What do you think distinguishes your personal dancing from the other dancers?
A) I love dancing and I challenge myself at home to dance as many Straight and Sidesteps as I can. I inspire myself, as a powwow dance instructor, to create my own personality as a Jingle Dancer, to put grace and style and my character in my energy and to connect with the singers and the drum. I believe that your energy out there on the dance floor will be noticed and so I work on that aspect too. It's not about just going out there and moving to the drum, it's about the connection to it, the dance and life.
Q)You look so stunning!Please tell us about your regalia? Are their stories behind some of your colors and designs? We'd love to hear!
A) Pilamiyaye!!! I believe in adding personal style and tribal art and designs in my outfits and accessories. There are certain designs I have incorporated because of their meaning. Like the butterfly graphic design; butterflies have a spiritual meaning to me due to trauma I went through as a pre-teen so they hold a special meaning to me. With my kids I will incorporate that same design as a way to protect or guide them. I also try to incorporate my kid's tribal basket designs in their regalia, but mostly their designs are Northern Plains to reflect their Lakota family. My accessories are quilled. Quillwork has a special meaning to me. Before there were beads, we used porcupine quills to decorate our clothing. Today, when you see Lazy stitch beadwork, know it has evolved from quillwork.
Q) What do you think folks will learn about themselves as they attend powwows? What do you hope that they will discover about Native People and Culture?
No matter what tribe a person is from, as they attend a powwow as a spectator, I believe they will see a inter-tribal connection and pride. Our powwows are a social dance that allows all tribes to come together and dance together. Maybe it will inspire the person to dance or want to learn their language or keep on the Red Road or even to drum. For a non-native, I believe it will allow them to see that we are still here, in celebration of life and our culture. It will let them know that despite what our ancestors went through by their ancestors we will not give up and that we are strong. Maybe it will bring peace and understanding to the non-native and will gain respect for who we are.
Q) What do you think makes a powwow a good one? What are some of your favorite powwows!
A) A good powwow is one that has a sense of positive energy. When stepping into the pow wow grounds you can feel that energy and see smiles and laughter. I don't have a favorite pow wow, each offers something to me. I will share ones I don't miss like Denver March Powwow, Rosebud 4th of July Wacipi, Tule River Pow Wow, Table Mountain PowWow, Wild Horse Pow Wow and one that caught my heart Pechanga PowWow. We travel all over, as much as our schedule allows us.
Q) When you describe yourself, what do you say?
A) That I am a kind person, who loves to laugh. I may look serious, but don't let that intimidate you. I enjoy good company and I love to inspire others. I am also a fitness fanatic and hope to inspire our people to live a healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Dawn Karima is the author of two novels, THE MARRIAGE OF SAINTS and THE WAY WE MAKE SENSE.
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