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Keeping a Good Mind: A Visit with Duane Brayboy

Posted By PowWows.com March 10th, 2014 Last Updated on: March 10th, 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 a member of the Tosneoc Tuscarora Community (Rawkist/Turtle Clan), which is part of the greater Tuscarora
Nation of North Carolina. I encourage a traditional, responsible and sober lifestyle that brings stability to family life
and therefore to our communities and nation.

Q) How does your Native culture form the foundation of your character?

A) After the point of contact and subsequent wars against my people we absorbed remnants of smaller nations which
were reduced by war or disease. Some remnants we absorbed were Siouan, some Algonkian and some were Iroquois,
such as Mingo and Coree. The Tuscarora were the largest nation east of the Cherokee in this region. Among the
Tuscarora, we have a saying; “I:rę U:tikęhrawkwast,” which means “keep the good mind.” I have always understood
this to mean I should refrain from activities and avoid people which bring bad thoughts or inspire negativity.
Our philosophies and beliefs encourage me to help others, especially the less fortunate. Today I brought a few bags of new
thermals, wool socks, blankets, gloves and hand warmers to the local Salvation Army shelter. This is our way.
I am remembering the story of my great Grandmother who fed many people in the community during the Great Depression
when she had very little herself. The Europeans documented this trait of ours in the 1700's by saying that we treated
them so much better than they ever treated us. We have a reputation as fierce warriors, but we are also very diplomatic
and compassionate people.

Q) What does dancing as a Native man mean to you?

A) I do not participate in secular dancing, but I readily participate in our social dances. The cultural differences
between the two are significant. Our social dances are very spiritual and meaningful. It is a way of expressing our
culture…a testament that we are still here and we are keeping the ways of our ancestors alive.
When we were dancing the Great Feather dance at one of our sacred sites recently, at one point I felt as if our ancestors were right there with us at that same place where they danced the same dances many hundreds of years ago. I strongly feel all Natives should be involved in their people's traditional culture and dances.
If we do not keep the old ways alive, who will? When we invite those who wish to reconnect with the old ways to our socials and ceremonies, it usually only takes once and they are hooked when they feel the unity, love and connection to our past, which we keep in the present.

Duane BrayboyQ) What do your dance clothes signify?

A) “Regalia” is a perfectly proper term when feather bustles and such are worn, but I choose to use the term “traditional
clothes” for what I wear. Traditional clothes are also a link to our past. When I am at ceremony or socials in them, I
feel as if I am becoming my ancestors and that I am them in motion. What else are we if not the sum of our ancestors?

Q)What are some of the lessons from your Tribal heritage that keep you spiritually centered? How do those internal ideas influence your dancing?

A) Keeping the good mind has kept me centered all of my life. My maternal great Grandmother was a Yunęhkwat Akę:kweh (Medicine woman) and her gifts, knowledge and values were passed down. Like any reservation or Native American tribal territory, we have a long history of poverty. We live in the poorest area of the state. My people all grew up poor, but we never knew it because we had love and each other.
Our families mean everything to us and we are very protective of our families. We have an old saying here, “Root hog or die,” meaning we learn to survive on next to nothing. The spiritual teachings of humility and compassion and the localized economic
disadvantges keep most of us very humble, but proud of our heritage. The virtue of balance is always close to me, so
being personally humble, but also proud of my heritage keep me balanced in my dancing. I do not dance for ego, but
to meet spiritual needs of myself and the people.

Q) Such an honorable tradition of dance in your life! How did you begin?

A) My mothers who raised me (Mom and two aunts) would sometimes take my generation to pow wows and at home we would spend a lot of time emulating what we saw. Sometimes we would make up our own dances and songs. As an adult, I was invited to participate with some Catawba friends in a social dance they were having. I remember feeling the beautiful energy that was being created and shared that day. I did not know everybody there, but by the end,
it was as if we were all family. I saw the distances between strangers vanish that day. Something this spiritual I knew I
wanted to be part of as often as possible.

Q)You look so distinguished! Are there stories behind the dance clothes that you wear?

A) Traditionally, our tribal colors were black and white and our war paint is black, white and red. I am partial to the
balance of black and white. My moccasins are traditional center seam with black felt and white Sky Domes
beaded on. I also made my gusto:weh (headdress) with a black felt band with white Sky Domes to match my
moccasins. Other than my wampum and silver arm bands, my traditional clothing is buckskin and hemp. Black and
white represent a spiritual balance that speaks to me. The warm colors of my buckskins and long shirt are a
representation of the natural world to me.

 

Duane Brayboy

Q) What do you think folks will learn about themselves as they attend dances? What do you hope that they will discover about Native People and Culture?

A) Participants in our traditional dances learn a new way to connect with our ancestors and realize that they can help keep our culture alive this way. For those Natives who are not dancing, I hope they will develop a respect for the dancers and the dances. I hope they understand the struggle it has been to keep our dances alive despite powerful opposition from several places.

Q) What do you think makes a powwow or dance a good one? What are some of your favorite ceremonies,powwows or dances?

A) Participation is what makes a pow wow or ceremony meaningful. When I hear that people do not attend ceremony or pow wow because they have to watch their t.v. programs, that really disappoints me. I have the most respect for those who will participate when circumstances would keep others away. We are Iroquois, so we stomp! I am partial to round dances where everybody is involved. Unity is what will ensure the survival of our people and culture. Midwinter ceremonies are my favorite, the beginning of our new year. The Clan Mothers will determine if Midwinter is celebrated in January or February and then we will have ceremonies and dances for nine days.

Q) What do you wish we knew about you that we don't already know?

A) I would like to be a fluent Tuscarora speaker, but finding Tuscarora language resources is impossible. I do speak
some of our language, but would like to be fluent. I wonder if Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur or any fluent Tuscarora speakers
are reading this?

Many thanks to Duane Brayboy for such a lovely perspective on Native Dance!

Dr. Dawn Karima hosts A CONVERSATION WITH DAWN KARIMA, a Native Radio Show that airs on TalktainmentRadio and its affiliates.


Home » Native American Articles » Native American Culture » Keeping a Good Mind: A Visit with Duane Brayboy


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Curtis Watson

Hello my name is Curtis Watson and I as well am a descendant from John Braveboy i would love to speak with you further on my findings on our Family.

Bill Elsasser

My grandfather was Cherokee and killed in an auto wreck in 1940 when my mother was 6 years old, she was taken to Ohio where she never got to meet her Cherokee family again. How do I find out which clan my grandfather belonged to?

Duane Brayboy

Hello Susie, All Brayboy/Braveboy people descend from John Braveboy, who earned the name during the Tuscarora war here in NC, so that tells me that we are cousins somewhere down the line. After the Tuscarora war, some of our people migrated north, stopping for a while in Shamokin, PA, before arriving among the NY Haudenosaunee, being formally adopted in 1722. After the war, many Tuscarora were dispersed like smoke in the wind. The Tuscarora, Mingo and Seneca were very thick in eastern NC. When I think of the Blackfoot in this region, I think of the Mingo connection to them in what is now West Virginia. Where does your Brayboy ancestor appear in your genealogy?

Susie Williams

In searching my geneology, I have an ancestor Brayboy. It is very difficult to trace Native American ancestry. I was told my ancestor was Blackfoot. Could there be a link here? Just wondering. Any info would be appreciated.

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