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ISSUE 119 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/28/2005

Native American Weeks feature dialogue

By Tim Rehborg
Opinion Editor

Friday, October 28, 2005

Colorful feathers, beads and strips of fabric dazzled the crowd gathered in Buntrock Crossroads Monday to watch Native American dancer Larry Yazzie, a "Fancy Dancer" from Minneapolis. His presence marked the beginning celebrations of Native American Weeks on campus.

While the national celebration of Native American culture occurs in May, St. Olaf celebrates Oct. 4 through Nov. 4 because of school schedules. The Talking Circle, St. Olaf's Native American group, and Multicultural Affairs and Community Outreach (MACO) sponsored the events and activities.

These weeks are a time for "celebration and having fun, said Talking Circle President Jay Rattanavong '06. The Talking Circle, which meets every Thursday at 6 p.m. in the MACO office, is a group that discusses and promotes issues affecting Native Americans in today's society.

Their meetings are open to anyone, Rattanavong said. "We want people to learn about Native culture and how we are still celebrating our traditions today.

The Talking Circle is holding a night of storytelling in the Ojibwe tradition on Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Lion's Lair. It will be led by the father of St. Olaf student Hannah Lussier '09 in celebration of Native American cultures.

"These stories, these myths, are stories of how we came to be here," Lussier said. "They are told about basically the first person, the trickster in Ojibwe culture, Nanabozho."

Trickster characters are found in many different cultures. Their importance in Native American cultures is highlighted in the hallway displays around campus for the celebration.

Larry Yazzie is based with a Native American dance troupe in the Twin Cities. He performs all over the world in the tradition of fancy dancing.

A member of the Meskwaki tribe in Tama, Iowa, Yazzie educates people of all ages about Native American culture through music and dance.

"I want to share my gift with others, and to challenge students to learn about other cultures that exist right here in America," Yazzie said of his art. "I have had a good experience here at St. Olaf, and I thank the students for allowing me to share my story and my art."

His dance tells the story of his people through improvisation.

"His movement is very focused," said Irene Mineoi '07, a member of St. Olaf's international dance troupe. "His dance is really connected to the earth and to the rhythm of the drum."

The earth and its people are all part of Native American culture being celebrated these weeks.

"We want to help educate people about Native American culture and peoples," Lussier said. "Often people associate Native culture with history and the past. While the Native American presence here at St. Olaf is not large, we are still active in our customs and traditions."

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