St. Matthew and St. Mary’s students gathered in St. Mary’s School gym to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. Their teacher was Nakotah LaRance and his father, Steve LaRance, members of Hopi tribe in Arizona. Sponsored by the Durham Museum and its Scholars in Residence program, they not only entertained but educated the students and teachers about their culture. Acknowledging a few of the Nebraska tribes, namely the Omaha, Winnebago and Oto-Missouri tribes, they also explained an important part of present day Nebraska agriculture. Corn, beans, and squash are known to the “first nation” peoples as “The Three Sisters”.
The assembly first heard a “greeting song”. Mr. LaRance played a drum made from a buffalo hide. He explained how every culture uses a drum of some sort. The drum, in the obvious shape of a circle, is called a “Sacred Hoop of Life”. It represents the “circle of life” that every culture experiences. The drum, one of the oldest instruments in the world, was used by Native American medicine men as it brought balance to lives. It also is a representation of the four earthly directions. The drum’s colored border helped the students understand this concept. The white represented snow so it also represented North. The yellow stood for the Sun, which rises in the East. The red band of color symbolized warmth or heat so it stood for the South, which can be hot. The final color, black, represented the West where the sun goes down bringing darkness to the world.
Next he spoke highly of his son, Nakotah, who is not only the national hoop dancer champion, but also the current world hoop dancer champion. He has won the world championship eight times and has recently been invited to participate in the Brooklyn Ballet in New York City in December during the performance of the Nutcracker.
The final part of the presentation was a dance by Nakotah. Students were told to watch for a variety of creatures in the hoop dance such as a butterfly which would represent all insects of the world; a horse which helped develop the West; an alligator which is a water serpent that carries prayers for rain; and a flower which symbolizes all the grass, trees and flowers of the world. Steve spoke of the “ladder of life” and how it represents our journey here on Earth from childhood to adulthood. He asked those gathered at the assembly to take care of the Earth and its gifts.
After the audience was awed by the final dance, seeing all the creatures through the entanglement of the hoops expertly done by Nakotah, the two Hopi Native Americans answered many questions from their attentive audience. Nakotah demonstrated his superb techniques in creating the horse, alligator, horse, flower and butterfly and explained how Science was part of his performance as he spun his hoops backwards making them return to him again and again.
St. Matthews’ students were dismissed to their buses while younger students eagerly gave high fives to Nakotah as they left the gym. Several upper grades of St. Mary’s students were fortunate enough to have their photos taken with Steve and Nakotah before returning to their classrooms. Today the students of both schools saw not only a champion of hoops, but a champion of hard work and persistence reminding us all that goals and dreams can be achieved! For more photos click here.