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Old 11-29-2005, 02:54 PM   #1
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Native Culture Celebrated at LaFayette School

Thursday, November 24, 2005




By Elizabeth Doran

Staff writer
LaFayette High School senior Rich Bennett enjoys the chance to express his
personality in the traditional Native American Smoke Dance, one of the faster
and flashier social dances performed on the reservation.
"The freestyle smoke dance is very festive and fancier than the other dances,
and it's usually held for competition," said Bennett, 18.
Dressed in traditional regalia of colorful breech cloth, leggings, ribbon
shirt, moccasins and feather headdress, Native American students at LaFayette
demonstrated their traditional dances last week as part of Native American
Heritage month.
Nearly 500 students in grades seven through 12 gathered in the LaFayette High
School gym for the Social Dancing and Smoke Dance exhibition. The dancers
were accompanied by the Young Men's Singing Society from the Onondaga Nation.
Nearly a quarter of LaFayette students are Native Americans.
The smoke dance demonstration drew the most admiration from onlookers. It's
filled with intricate footwork, athletic moves and precise timing, and it's
designed to be danced to the rhythm of the drum beat. There are "jumps"
throughout the dance in which participants can show their own interpretations and
to edge out the other competitors.
Danielle Rourke, guidance counselor and Native American liaison, said the
event has been held for about eight years, but this year, the student audience
sat in a circle around the dancers instead of on the bleachers to encourage
more interaction. It seemed to work, as many staff and students joined in the
dances.
The district's weeklong celebration featured presentations on the Iroquois
museum and making lacrosse sticks; sampling corn soup, strawberry drink and fry
bread, also known as hot scoons; and culminated with the social dance
exhibition.
"It's a pretty cool way of exposing non-Native students to our social dances
and our culture," Bennett said. "It helps everyone know what we're all about
and helps with unity."
Kiersten Oakes, 16, said it's important for Native students to keep their
culture and its dances alive even as they move more into mainstream everyday
society.
Parent Sherri Hopper explained that the event celebrates the Haudenosaunee,
or the People of the Longhouse, known more widely as the Iroquois. The
Haudenosaunee is made up of six nations, the Mohawks, Senecas, Oneidas, Cayugas,
Tuscaroras and Onondagas.
Seventeen-year-old Marcia Lyons helped coordinate the social dances, which
included a Stomp Dance, Women's Dance, Rabbit Dance, Duck Dance, Round Dance
and an Alligator Dance. The Alligator Dance, which comes from the Seminoles in
Florida, represents the snapping of the alligator's tail every time the male
twirls his partner around.
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