Students experience Native American History Month

By Greg Gelpi

Students were introduced into a new style of dance at Adamson Middle School, but not the type seen on MTV.

Members of the Native Nations Dance Theater held a pow-wow, demonstrating a variety of dances for students at Adamson Middle School, a school whose mascot is the Indian, as part of Native American History Month.

Tribal music pumping through the gymnasium, the dancers placed their hands on their hips, bobbing along with the beat of the drums, turning on their heals. The traditional grass dance was used to "stomp" down grass and weeds before a gathering, Vaughnda Hilton of the Native Nations Dance Theater explained to the children.

Hilton, wearing a "jingle" dress, said that the dancers were not wearing "costumes," but rather wearing "regalia" and authentic American Indian clothing.

"I think it's kind of cool," 12-year-old Devon Alcorn said, adding that the grass dance was his favorite. "I didn't expect this much."

The pow-wow allowed students to connect with their history, since Clayton County has a rich history of American Indians, Alcorn said.

That is what Hilton hoped the students would take from the pow-wow.

"I know a lot of these children here have Native American ancestry," she said. "I hope they can get in touch with it."

Alcorn and Hoang Tran, 13, also enjoyed the hoop dance, performed by Delwin Fiddler Jr. Fiddler created shapes, animals and even Mickey Mouse during a dance using hoops.

Tran called the dancing "really different" from the dancing she is familiar with, but was amazed at how they danced with one foot on the ground.

The Native Nations Dance Theater, based out of Philadelphia, has performed throughout the country and is comprised of American Indians from an assortment of tribes. Hilton wants to keep the traditions of American Indians alive and pass them on to future generations by touring the country and performing the dances.

Stereotypes of American Indians should be destroyed, she said. American Indians are a diverse group of tribes and nations in many colors, types of housing, styles of dress and cultures. That is why her organization is called Native Nations, Hilton said, because it shows the diversity of Native Americans.

Hilton performed a jingle dance for the children. Her dress had a long skirt covered with bells that added to the music as she danced.

She explained that the dance was created from a dream in which a man saw the dress and the dance. Through performing the dance, his daughter, who couldn't walk before, was healed. When Hilton does the jingle dance, she sees herself as a "channel," praying for all who are sick.