March 24th, 2014 Last Updated on: March 24th, 2014
Interview by Dr. Dawn Karima,Contributing Editor
Quincy Afraid of Lightning's striking name makes an indelible impression on everyone who hears it. So does his stunning presence in powwow regalia, as this mighty Lakota dances at many powwows. Yet, it is his indomitable spirit that stands out as a steady, strong example of traditional Lakota values and his personal faith beliefs. Recently, this powwow dancer took a break from serving his community to speak with us about the fire that fuels his way of life.
Q) You are amazing! Each time we visit, you're doing something remarkable! What are you into these days?
A) I’m 38 and growing stronger as I get older . I’m drug, alcohol, and smoke free. I do teaching presentations on our Lakota culture and music. I pastor a church in Rapid City SD called The Miracle Center. Before all of that I had a very troubled life of addiction. I have also been to state and federal prison. I am also an author. I wrote a book called “The Blue Road” which is going all over the U.S. and helping many people get free of the same obstacles I had in my life.
Q) What is your Native heritage? What are some of your tribal values that shape your character? How so?
A) I am Lakota from the Mnicoujou band. On my reservation, Cheyenne River they call us “west enders Wounded Knee survivors”. My band (Mnicoujou) we were the band that was massacred at Wounded Knee. The original “Afraid of Lightning” where my family’s last name comes from died there. I look at our tribal values our “Seven Sacred Values” and I see they are the same values of all people on the earth. It reminds me in our Lakota language we have a saying “Mitakuye Oyasin” which means “we are all related”. This is a good reminder that helps us to love each other. I love people .
Q) With a name like Powwows.com, it's pretty clear that powwows are important to those of us around here, but I know that you are passionate about them as well. What does it mean to dance at powwows for you?
A) A pow wow to me is a time of “waci na oskate” dance and games. A time for family, relatives to celebrate our rich heritage and culture. It’s a time of remembering who we are as Native people and why we are still here. I encourage all people to attend our powwows. I love sharing our culture with people. The more they know about us, then the better we can understand each other.
Q) I know when I wear my regalia, when I dance, I feel inspired. I feel the love of my ancestors and deep devotion to my traditions. What does your regalia mean to you? It's gorgeous!
A) When I put on my regalia I am reminded why these feathers were awarded to me. I am reminded what these colors mean. I remember our rich heritage. I remember there are people who can’t dance but want too. I am thankful that I can. When I dance at a pow wow I want to make my family, my people feel proud when they see me dancing. When I’m dancing I feel like I’m the one making that drum thunder every time I put my foot down! I love to dance! All this talk about dancing I feel like dancing now!
Q)Me, too! I'm craving a good powwow! As soon as I leave one, I am already anticipating the next one! Our tribal cultures are so significant! What are some of the lessons from your Tribal heritage that keep you spiritually centered? How do those internal ideas influence your dancing?
A) There is One from the Tribe of Judah that keeps me. His name is Jesus. I dance because He has put joy in my heart. No one can truly dance without joy. Through Him my dancing is only enhanced and full of joy.
Q) Such strong spiritual faith! Tell us about your journey into powwows?
A) I didn’t start dancing until I was an adult. I sang Lakota long before I danced. My family is a singing family from way back. I learned from my Lala (grandfather), uncles, cousins, even my mom who would wicaglata (woman singer). I was always a dancer though growing up, with the mainstream American styles. Before I danced while singing at powwows I would see the dancers and feel pride in who we are. I would hear the music and I felt like dancing. So I did.
Q) I'm glad you did! I started dancing as a child, so I always admire when folks have the courage to start dancing as adults! It takes a strong heart to start and a steadfast character to decide to honor your culture this way. So, how did you choose your dance category? What does dancing your particular style mean to you?
A) I dance grass and I love the movements. It’s powerful and graceful. I love the original style. One dancer that I would love to watch back in the day and even want to dance like was Senator Jonathan Windy Boy of MT. Dancing Grass was the style that I was drawn to.
Q) What do you think distinguishes your personal dancing from the other dancers?
A) Today in many circles grass dancing has started to look more like fancy dancing. What distinguishes my dancing is I try to keep it original style. A lot of my movements are on one leg, making sure to pat down the grass, even getting way low. My favorite grass songs to dance to are the songs that start out with no beat, original style!
Q)Isn't it marvelous that each dancer has such distinctive regalia. Yours is outstanding!
A) Oh thank you! In 2004 at the “Honoring of the Chiefs” annual powwow in Cherry Creek SD I was made an eagle bone whistle carrier, a member of the Tokala Society, and awarded my Lakota name. A Tokala Society member fought for his people, was the first to go and the last to leave. Even staking himself down in battle. A Tokala (kit fox warrior) was respected among his people for being selfless, spiritual men, and known to love the people. The Tokala Society colors are red and yellow. So you see all over my regalia are beaded red and yellow medicine wheels to reflect the honor that was bestowed on me.
Q) Such bravery! When I hear a story like that, I think that's the kind of story that should be told about our Native people rather than the stereotypes and cultural appropriations that fill mainstream media. How do powwows help to create unity and educate about diversity? What kind of insights can folks experience at a powwow?
A) I think they will see as “human beings” we have more things in common than not. My hope is that people would see we are still here, we don’t live in teepees anymore etc. That our culture is beautiful and through understanding each other we can better help one another.
Q) What do you think makes a powwow a good one? What are some of your favorite powwows!
A) What I think makes a powwow a good one is a lot of singing and dancing. Keeping the dancing going, category after category. That’s what the people came to see. Also keeping the drum rotation going so all the drums get to sing and share their songs. A good powwow is good for everyone. Singers, dancers, and the people watching. My favorite powwows are the powwows in our small communities.
Q) What do you wish we knew about you that we don't already know?
A) I just want you all to know, I want the best for all of you and love you all! Hoka!
Dr. Dawn Karima is a Native American Music Award Winning recording artist, who won for her CD, THE DESIRE OF NATIONS.
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