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Wednesday September 20, 2017
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Dance for Mother Earth

 

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Ann Arbor embraced the Dance for Mother Earth. It started on the street, then, as it grew, moved to larger locales, including Huron High, the old Cleary College on Washtenaw, the Washtenaw Farm Council grounds, and the U-M Sports Coliseum. Eventually, "we moved to the Crisler because the powwow was very popular, and each venue just wasn't big enough," recalls Dorothy Goeman, a former Native American representative in the U-M Minority Student Services office. "Crisler met our needs." Goeman says the powwow's goal has always been "to educate on Native American life both past and present."

I have no Indian heritage myself, but my half sister is Tennessee Cherokee. In 1992, our mother took us to the first Crisler powwow, where we wandered the arena admiring the craftsmanship of the silver jewelry, ivory carvings, and blankets. When the grand entry began, and the dancers emerged from the tunnel, we all fell silent as the floor filled with a rainbow of colorful regalia, and the walls vibrated with the instruments and songs.

I first saw my future boyfriend John that day, two years before we formally met. John--he asked me not to use his last name--was a drummer with Blue Lake Drum, named for a spiritually important lake in New Mexico. (At a powwow, a "drum" is the entire team of percussionists and singers who perform with an instrument.) Blue Lake was a frequent winner in the drum contests, and with good reason--not only were they phenomenal players, but they had voices that carried up to the high seats, all monosyllabic tones.

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