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Will Layha Spoonhunter be the first Native American President? He sure hopes so!

Posted By PowWows.com March 13th, 2014 Last Updated on: March 13th, 2014

Interview by Dr. Dawn Karima, Contributing Editor

Will a comedian/motivational speaker be the first Native American President? Layha Spoonhunter sure hopes so! This dedicated Chicken Dancer has already graced the Presidential Inauguration with his powwow dancing and hopes someday to be take up residence in the White House. He shares his thoughts on elections, culture and Powwows with us in this interview.

Layha Spoonhunter dancing in the Presidential Inauguration!

Layha Spoonhunter dancing in the Presidential Inauguration!



Q) It's great to visit with you!!!  What are some of the facts you'd like us to know about you?

A)   Neneeninoo Houu’neecee –My name is Crow Chief in Northern Arapaho.  My name is Layha Pretty Elk Spoonhunter. I am a student at Idaho State University and I am majoring in political science. I currently serve as Vice-President of the Native Americans United Club at ISU and we are currently planning our powwow which will be held April 19,20th on the campus. For several years now, I have been a youth consultant working with various youth organizations throughout the United States. In 2008, I served as the youngest delegate to the Democratic National Convention to Then Senator Barack Obama and worked on the campaign in three states.  One of the greatest aspects in my life is UNITY(United National Indian Tribal Youth) and it has allowed me to become outspoken about issues facing Indian Youth Today.

My Father is Harvey Spoonhunter and my mother is Wilma Weed Spoonhunter. I have one brother-Lamar Redhawk Spoonhunter. and one sister Harmony Dancing Rain Spoonhunter. I also have many nieces and nephews. One thing that I admire about my family is that we are a close family who is very involved in the dance circle. My culture has taken me very far to two Presidential Inaugurations and the United Nations as well.

President Obama and Layha Spoonhunter!

President Obama and Layha Spoonhunter!

I want to acknowledge my elders and also the veterans who have defended our way of life. In My family, we have had many family members who served in the military such as My Grandpa on my mother’s side Starr Weed SR who is 95 years old. My Grandpa on my father’s side the late Issac Spoonhunter and My Grandma the Late Wanda Trumbull Spoonhunter.

Q) What is your Native heritage? What are some of your tribal values that shape your character? How so?

I am an Enrolled Eastern Shoshone (Sosoni”ii) Tribal Member and I am also Northern Arapaho (Hinono’ei) and Oglala Lakota (Notoo’nei).  On my father’s side, I am a descendant of Crazy Horse and on my mother’s side, I am related to Chief Washakie.  Growing up, I was taught by my father that when you introduce yourself you first speak in your native language because that’s our first language and it defines who you are as a person.  Also that when you speak in front of your elders, you ask permission from them before you speak and that you share these lessons with future generations. As Indigenous nations, I was taught that when you take the role of being a leader, you follow in the path of your ancestors and leave a trail for others to follow.



Layha Spoonhunter and Grandpa Starr Weed, Sr.

Layha Spoonhunter and Grandpa Starr Weed, Sr.

Q) Powwows seem very significant in your life. Share with us?

A) The Powwow Circle is a healing circle where you meet old friends and make new friends. My elders told me it’s important for the younger generation to understand that when you are around the powwow circle to be respectful. That means that there should be no fighting as well as any form of drug or alcohol.  How I would describe a powwow as well is that the dances each have their own distinct meaning and that the dancers have their own style. Also that the designs on the regalia tell a story either about their culture, family or their life. They should attend to learn that our culture has survived and is thriving.

Layha Spoonhunter performs for an enthusiastic Wyoming crowd!
Layha Spoonhunter performs for an enthusiastic Wyoming crowd!

 

Q)You have shared with me that you hope to run for office, maybe even be elected President someday. That's a lot of power and a lot of pressure!  What are some of the lessons from your Tribal heritage that keep you spiritually centered? How do those internal ideas influence your dancing?

A) Some of the lessons that I learned is that we as Indigenous people can pray anywhere because all of our universe is a church, the animals are our brothers, they give their lives so that we can live. Also the animals, the insects are featured in our creation stories and as a part of our regalia. When I graduated from High School, I was given an Eagle feather and this meant more to me than material gifts because it symbolizes a great achievement you have made.  A lesson I was taught from my dad is that when you dance, you dance for those that are sick, that they may be healed, you dance for the ones that can’t walk and you dance for your people, your family and your tribe.

Layha Spoonhunter at Cheyenne Frontier Days!

Layha Spoonhunter at Cheyenne Frontier Days!

 

Q) How did you start dancing? How did you know that this was what you truly wanted to do?

A)  I started dancing at an early age, my parents told me about the different aspects of song and dance. Without the different songs, there would be no dances and each song has it’s own meaning. I like dancing, it is a huge reflection of who I am as a person and it feels good to share my culture with others.  My family in recent years has had the honor of traveling to various locations in Wyoming and Colorado to share our gifts of song and dance at conferences and county fairs.  For over ten years, my family as well other dancers from our community were one of the highlights of the Cheyenne Frontier days, drawing big crowds from across the United States daily.

Layha Spoonhunter smiles with his role model, his Dad!

Layha Spoonhunter smiles with his role model, his Dad!

Q) How did you choose your dance category? What does dancing your particular style mean to you?

A)   I always liked Chicken dancers for their unique footwork and it is an entertaining dance style to watch. For me I was given my first chicken dance regalia I was about 15 or 16 and some of the beadwork that came with it are over one hundred years old. That regalia is special to me because it’s the one I had the honor of performing in at the United Nations in New York, City.  That day was remarkable because I had the honor of representing not only my tribal nations, but I was one of only four natives that were there that day. I had the distinct honor to speak on Leonard Peltier’s case- a political prisoner and AIM member in front of the students gathered there that day.

Q)Please tell us about your regalia? I know you have had some great adventures that you hope might lead you to elected office someday?

A) For me, I Have two sets of Regalia that I Dance in- the Blue Outfit I received when I First started dancing Chicken and then the regalia that was given to me by my father when I graduated from the Wind River Tribal College. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to dance in the blue one when I attended the First Inauguration of President Barack Obama.  When given the opportunity to participate in the 2013 Inauguration, I decided to wear the outfit that was given to me by my father in honor of him, my mother, my family and my tribal nations.

Q) Give us Powwows 101. What can folks expect to learn at a powwow if they've never attended?

A) They will learn about our various songs and dances as well as eating our traditional foods. One distinct thing, they will learn is that each tribe has its distinct meaning for the songs, the dances and the regalia they wear.  Hopefully they will gain important information and in this, we as Indian Nations are destroying some of their stereotypes about us. Some of my favorite powwows are the local powwows in the community- The Ethete Celebration and Eastern Shoshone Indian Days as well as Denver March Pow-Wow, Gatherings Of Nations, Crow Fair, Shoshone-Bannock Festival are some of my favorite powwows I travel to annually.

Layha Spoonhunter and family share their culture!

Layha Spoonhunter and family share their culture!

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

A) Currently, I am working on a new tour for Indian Country called the 2014 “REZ LIFE Tour which will feature comedy, motivational speaking. My vision that I hope to share to Indian Country is that, “We as Indian people can succeed in the 21st century by gaining an education while keeping our culture alive”. “This I believe allows us to successfully walk in two worlds- the Indian and Non-Indian while maintaining a drug and alcohol free lifestyle.”.

After dancing for President Obama's Inaugural Parade, Layha Spoonhunter hopes to fill the White House someday!

After dancing for President Obama's Inaugural Parade, Layha Spoonhunter hopes to fill the White House someday!

Dr.Dawn Karima is the author of two novels: THE WAY WE MAKE SENSE and THE MARRIAGE OF SAINTS.


Home » Native American Articles » Native American Culture » Will Layha Spoonhunter be the first Native American President? He sure hopes so!


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alvie weddle

i would vote for you, i am cherokee & choctaw. we need a native american in office. if they will let you in. i put in to run when clinten was in office, filled out forms , no ancer. i will be praying for you….

Pamela Harris Young

He has got mine and my husband and many many more votes .I am Cherokee decent and would love to have our real Americans in the White House!

Alexandria G.

I THINK THAT IS AN AWESOME IDEA! I WOULD VOTE FOR YOU IN INSTANT!

EDIE BEEBE

THAT WOULD BE AWSOME !!!!!! AND WHY NOT !!!!!!

Eric Johnson

the first mistake the black people in America did was to vote for Barack Obama because of his skin color. Most of them didn’t even understand his policies.the last thing I am going to do is vote 4 someone just because he is NAtive.I would like to know where his morals and values are.does he want to open our borders? Does he want 2 grant citizenship to eleven more illegals ?we have been fighting illegal immigration since 1776 .I do not have faith in our 2 parties now, however I do server do libertarian values. I would like to see that in our native american President.I would also like to see four branches of government. The 4th branch would be a tribal council made up from the leader of each tribe.when Congress passes a bill it will go to the president after the president signs the bill it goes to the tribal council tribal council would bring the bill to the sweat lodge. After they’re pray for the bill the council would then approve the bill or decline the bill.if the bill is declined in goes back to Congress. No he’ll sell be passed unless approved by the Tribal Council. I know I’m dreaming

Echo Soldier Wolf

G’day from Australia!
A Northern Arapaho/Australian responding from Aus. Would just like to say mad respects to Layha. Representing our people in the United States like that. I’m studying Australian and Global politics in my last year of high school over here and I’ve always wanted to be involved in politics. Keep working at it 🙂
Hohou!
P.S-I will fly back just to vote for you!

TslagiGurl

I think it would be a dream come true to see a native rise to power and take back what is rightfully ours. Granted its way different but the fact remains 1st American would be in charge only to make America a better place with better laws (esp. when it comes to taking care of the land and to quit destroying the earth). You deffinetly got my vote :).

Watches Eagles

I think most people missed the point here and immediately started on the “if you are that you are wrong, and if you aren’t this, you are wrong”…it isn’t about “party” here, and everyone should be able to make their own choices. This is about who this very dignified and honorable person is, and his dreams and goals to bring his culture and ideas to the forefront of this nation. To have a Native with great new ideas and real history of what this nation is and the people that live in it is about…Leave your party judgements out of this, it only brings negativity to the whole idea. Layha Spoonhunter, your people believe in you…we as a nation would believe in you….follow your dream!

Cathy Collins

It would be great to have a real Indian as president, but you have identified yourself with O. Bad decision on your part. You really need to get the statistics on how most Native Americans vote.

Michael Denley

That would be awesome, he’s got my vote. Keep up the good work and stay strong.

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