Norwich ― Wearing his dance attire of moccasins and bells, leggings with horsehair and pearls, loincloth, shirt and neckerchief and fur turban, Matt “Corneater” Cross wove his body between three hoops to form the shapes of different forest animals.
Louis Mofsie ― whose Native American names are Cloud Standing Straight in the Sky and Green Rainbow ― explained that the hoop dance originated from the Anishinaabe people of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Cross, Mofsie and Alan “Shooting Star” Brown are part of Thunderbird American Indian Dancers and performed at the Otis Library in Norwich on Saturday morning for a group of children, the first Native American dance program organized by the library.
Cross is Kiowa and from Oklahoma, Mofsie is Hopi and Winnebago, and Brown is Lenape, but they also perform dances from other tribes. Mofsie, founding director of the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, said they went to Alaska and the Southwest to learn dances.
They live in the New York area but travel everywhere, Mofsie said, including Japan and Israel. There are about 12 to 15 people in Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, which was founded in 1963.
This is a particularly busy time of year for the group, as November is Native American Heritage Month. The next Over a Month section of the day is themed around Native American Heritage Month and will appear in next Sunday’s newspaper.
Kate Fields, children’s services manager at the Otis Library, said she got the idea to invite the dancers after hearing rave reviews of their performances at other Connecticut libraries. Saturday was a tutoring class with over 15 elementary age children.
With Mofsie in the lead and playing hand drums, the three dancers entered the venue on Saturday with what is known as a welcome song or greeting song.
“Native American history and heritage is also part of your heritage, part of your story,” explained Mofsie, who provided introductions to the dances and storytelling throughout. “Native American history didn’t begin in 1492, when Christopher Columbus got lost and landed in this country, but thousands and thousands of years ago.”
He heard people say things like, “You look like a real Native American, but you don’t,” but he pointed out, “We don’t all look alike. We are very different. We come in many different shapes, we come in many different sizes, and we come in many different colors.
Another misconception he explained is that people think there is a rain dance, when it is actually a prayer dance, asking the creator of the rain.
“When you pray, you can go to a church, you can go to a synagogue, you can go to a mosque,” Mofsie said. “When we pray, we pray while dancing.”
Brown then did a traditional war dance, and Mofsie explained that Brown wore a porcupine hair headdress, an eagle feather dance bustle arranged to represent battle formation, and a cuirass made of buffalo bone.
Mofsie introduced the grass dance of the Lakota people earlier explaining the importance of the buffalo: it is a source of food, the skin is used to make tepees, the skins are used to make clothing and the bones are used to make spoons and knives, with the ribs used for sleds.
He noted that the bison did not stay in one place, so “wherever the bison went, that’s where the people went”, and the dancers crushed the grass so the tribe could build camps.
Kunga Duptak, 9, said after the program that the grass dance was his favorite and that he thought it was cool that Native Americans use everything from buffalo, that “they get a whole lot of material from one animal”. .
Kunga had also participated in a dance contest to catch a feather straight from the ground with his mouth, without his hands or knees touching the ground, and he still had bits of feathers in his hair as he excitedly saluted. the dancers at the end of the program. .