December 15th, 2014 Last Updated on: December 15th, 2014
Interview by Dr Dawn Karima, Native American Culture Editor
Our Youth are our future and our future is beautiful! Alorha Baga, champion Jingle Dress Dancer, and Donzia Morales, former Miss Chemawa and Miss Te-Moak Queen are making a beautiful difference in the lives of Native Youth. Wonder how? They share with us at Powwows.com!
DK) Such lovely Native Ladies! It's great to know that you are keeping our culture alive! Who are you? Will you introduce yourselves to us please and share your tribal affiliations with us?
AB) Hello, my name is Alorha Baga and I am Sicangu Lakota/So.Ute/Apache. I have been teaching the Tachi Youth Dance Group for about 11 years on the Santa Rosa Rancheria.
DM) Hello, my name is Donzia Rose Morales. I am a Tribal Member of the Te-Moak Bands of Western Shoshone of Elko, NV where I was born and raised. I relocated shortly after graduating from Chemawa Indian High School to the Central Valley in California in 1997, then attended College of Sequoias and graduated with honors, receiving an AA Degree in ECE. Thereafter got married and began a family, I am now a mother of four amazing and beautiful children. I continued my Higher Education to pursue a Bachelors Degree in Organizational Leadership with an emphasis in Business Administration. I Graduated with a BA Degree from Brandman University with honors in December 2013. I have a sincere passion and deep love for our tribal youth and education in general. With my personal cultural background and upbringing, I began the Tachi Youth Dance Group in 2000.
DK) How inspirational! Thanks for being so dedicated to our youth! How did you start dancing?
AB) I started dancing when I was a child and I loved dancing fancy shawl. I stopped as a teen and now I dance Jingle.
DM) I have been dancing since I could walk. I come from a Pow-Wow family up north in Ft. Hall, Idaho. That’s where my true roots are, we’d attend the Ft. Hall Festivals every year and that’s where my love for Pow-Wow dancing came from. Along with my grandmas and my mom encouraging me along the way. I just would watch the dancers and take it all in and I was drawn to the Fancy Shawl style early on as a toddler. Just grew up dancing, we never really could afford to travel but mainly went to our local Pow-Wows between Idaho and Nevada. I got to be part of a youth drum group for a couple years in my adolescent days and love the heart beat of the drum and the songs. I was crowned our very first Miss Te-Moak Queen for my tribe in 1991/1992. One of the greatest honors ever! Also, I was part of the Performing Arts group at for 3 years at Chemawa Indian High School and was Miss Chemawa in 1996. So pretty much, just taking in all the experiences growing up.
DK)What does dancing mean to you?
AB) Dancing is freedom, healing, self expression and to me a ceremony in it's self because it brings joy and healing to others.
DM)I always said that dancing to me was like the greatest “High”! It’s a real feeling of freedom and peace, especially when you’re jamming to a good song. It’s just one of the greatest feelings of inner peace and a way to connect and dance for the creator. I go through seasons with the pow-wow scene, but when my family and I are very active, then dancing becomes a way of life.
DK) Why do you think that it is so important to share dancing with our precious Native youth?
AB) It helps build leadership, self expression through movement and most of all it helps them connect with their culture and the native culture the dance originates from. It helps them relate to other tribes throughout Turtle Island.
DM) I know that as a parent it was important for me to instill the importance of dancing to keep our culture alive and thriving, but to also instill some of the traditional teachings and upbringing of our elders and ancestors. We live in such a fast and materialistic world and sometimes the only things that can keep our youth grounded is simply knowing where they come from or knowing that they are unique. A little bit of cultural enrichment goes a long way. It gives them a positive outlet and outlook on life in general. In some cases, it’s the difference between choosing the streets/drugs or dancing. I prefer that our youth choose dancing.
DK) How are you changing lives through your youth dance group?
AB) Teaching the various styles of pow wow dances, their history and origin. We also encourage fitness through stretching, warm up movements and endurance dancing. Endurance dancing is the dancers dance one or more songs without stopping. It is to build up their endurance levels so they wont tire out so quickly. As for leadership, we encourage our dancers to introduce themselves at performances and also to run for pow wow titles (Miss/Princess pow wow titles).
DM) We have amazing support from the Santa Rosa Rancheria Education Department. They help to coordinate performances and arrange transportation for our youth to do dance performances throughout the local communities to share the pow wow dance styles and culture as well as represent the tribe. That gives Alorha and I time to focus on the fundamentals of dancing. We meet on a weekly basis, every Wednesday, and run two different sessions, which are about 45 min. each. In addition to regular dance sessions where we teach the youth pow wow etiquette and styles in dance, we offer a cultural enrichment activity once a month. That includes activities or hands on stuff like beading, clap stick making, drumming, etc.
DK) How did you start the group?
AB) I was brought in to sub for the instructor Donzia Morales, as she went on Maternity Leave. From there, we realized we have the same goals and ideas and I stayed with the Tachi Youth Dance Group.
DM)In 2000, I was asked by some employees at the SRR ED afterschool program to help and volunteer to lead the dance group. I later was hired on as the Asst Director then was promoted to the Director position and seen the need for more direction, time commitment, and regalia for the youth. We started sewing classes, and then it just slowly started with a little spark and over the years caught on like wild fire! I started off teaching about 8 kids and an pow wows and also began to raise her own children as dancers. It was awesome because we had a shared love for dance and have been working together with the youth dance group since. We have common goals for our youth and just work well together, we compliment one another in a good way.already established little drum group and by the time 2005 came, the dance group had double in size and I was going to give birth to my 4th child. Needless to say, I needed help. So I had sought out Alorha to help. It was the greatest decision ever, because I seen a new spark within her too. She had began dancing again and practicing to be able to lead the kids. She found a deep desire to go further and started to get involved in more pow wows and also began to raise her own children as dancers. It was awesome because we had a shared love for dance and have been working together with the youth dance group since. We have common goals for our youth and just work well together, we compliment one another in a good way.in and practicing to be able to lead the kids. She found a deep desire to go further and started to get involved even more.
DK)Tell us about the group. Share some of the successes and or stories that your group has enjoyed.
AB) The Tachi Youth Dance Group performs at schools and organizations through out California's Central Valley. We share our culture through dance and tell of the history and origin of the dances. The greatest success is seeing a few generation of dance students come through the dance group and growing within the dance group, leaving us only due to High School Extracurricular activities.
One success story I love to always think about is when we gifted a starquilt to the school our dance group performs at every year i
n November. The school's name is Central Elementary and the majority of our Native Youth attend the school. We plan for this every year and have themes each year. One year we honored our Native Veterans and this year we honored the teachers in our lives.
two years ago we brought out Cody Black Bird and some of our dancers danced in his program.
Donzia Morales and I don't only teach the various pow wow dances, but we also incorporate Cultural Enrichment. We had a hoop dance workshop in October and in the past have taught Hand Games. We also have Christmas Round Dance Parties and Year end “Mini Pow Wow”. The biggest joy I get is seeing our Native Youth involved and enjoying themselves and building confidence in who they are. We live by the “R” word, RESPECT and instill cultural virtues. We are a preventative program too, and encourage a drug/alcohol free lifestyle.
DM) We are invited every year to the local elementary school to put on an amazing performance for the K – 8th Graders. This allows Alorha and I to explore and tap into our creativity. We also perform for other local schools, organizations, events, etc. upon request. On average the youth perform about 12 to 24 times a year.
DK)Wonderful! What are some of the plans and hopes you have for this group's future?
AB)My hope for the future of the Tachi Youth Dance Group is to see it continue on and get bigger through the years. To see the year end “mini pow wow” grow into an End of the Year “Honoring our Graduate's Pow Wow”.
DM) I would love to take them to a Big Production Dance Group so that they can see first hand the potential they all have and the possibilities of a great performing art group. Continue to lead the group to new and great cultural experiences!
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