In a spectacular end to Native American Heritage Month in November, artists from the Brooklyn-based Redhawk Native American Arts Council performed dances from the Southwest, Northern Plains, and Eastern Woodlands for Clinton students at a Cultural Arts assembly on November 28. Sponsored by the Clinton PTA, the troupe performed to captivated audiences who had no problem singing and dancing first thing in the morning.
Dressed in colorful ceremonial clothes, the Native American artists danced to chants, traditional drums and flute music and taught students about the significance of each dance to indigenous cultures.
The Redhawk Native American Arts Council is a not-for-profit organization that educates the general public about Native American heritage through song, dance, theater, art and other cultural forms of expression.
“Where do you think Native Americans live? Do you think we wear these clothes everyday?” asked Cliff Matias of the Redhawk Native American Arts Council, as students yelled out answers in unison.
“We’re from Brooklyn,” Matias answered in a thick Brooklyn accent, noting that Native Americans live in houses and apartments and wear clothes just like other Americans. Matias proceeded to break some of the myths and stereotypes that many still hold today about Native Americans living in teepees and greeting each other by saying, “How!”
Some 20 students joined dancers on stage to learn the “Buffalo” dance while those in the audience learned movements so they could participate from their seats. Principal Patricia O’Neill and fourth-grade teacher Yolanda Fleming got into character and played a role related to a Native American love story on the stage with one of the dancers. The dances and song also incorporated traditions from Lakota and Aztec cultures kept alive by members of those cultures today.
Matias, who is from the Taino tribe, performed a spell-binding dance using several hula hoops at once. His complex moves left the students amazed.
For more information on the Redhawk Native American Arts Council, visit www.redhawkcouncil.org.
--Shanta Bryant Gyan