March 14th, 2013 | Published in Education
Saving the Dance: Louis Mofsie… Tish Leizens ICTMN
O’siyo. Spring signals the beginning of Pow-wows and Native Celebrations!
One Native group that has been performing Native dances and celebrating Naive culture are the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers. This New York City based group was founded in 1963 by Louis Mofsie an educator and member of the Hopi/Winnebago Nations. What is unique about the Thunderbird Dancers is that the members all come from various tribes and have continued to dance together for many years. This year marks their 50th Celebration! The following is an excerpt from an interview with Mr. Mofsie by ICTMN.
“At the age of 76, Louis Mofsie, Hopi/Winnebago, an accomplished dancer, choreographer, educator and artistic director of the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, which he founded 50 years ago, is as busy as ever…From January 25 to February 3 he led his Native dance group to perform its Annual Dance Concert and Pow Wow at the Theater for the New City in New York City.
The concert was a theater presentation where the troupe performs dances from the Inuit of Alaska, the Iroquois of New York, the Hopi and Yaqui of the Southwest and the Plains Indians of the Great Plains.
Plans are also underway for their annual Queens County Farm Museum Pow Wow at the end of July and their 50th anniversary pow wow at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York on April 20…ICTMN caught up with Mofsie before his big concert at the Theater for the New City as he reflected on his 50th year of entertaining and educating the audience about Native culture.
ICTMN: What are your thoughts on the 50th year of the founding of your dance troupe, Thunderbird American Indian Dancers?
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of our dance company is overwhelming. I guess 50 years ago when we first organized our group no one would have thought we would last that many years, least of all me. It’s a credit to all those who have worked so hard over the years to help make it a reality.
ICTMN: You are an MC, choreographer, dancer . . . what is it you enjoy doing most?
The most enjoyment I get out of what I do is to make contact with the people in the audience and the people I’m working with. I try to make the experience an enjoyable one, as well as an educational one.
ICTMN: Why is educating non-Natives about Native culture important to you?
Educating non-Natives about our culture has been a primary part of the mission statement of our group. Addressing stereotypes and explaining the disrespect they reflect on native people, as well as, other misunderstood cultures is vitally important. We do many school residencies here in the metropolitan area and reaching children at a young age is the best time to influence their perceptions…Part of our mission statement is also to preserve and perpetuate the songs and dances of various tribes. In some instances some of the dances we do are no longer performed. If we can preserve these dances and songs we feel we are helping to keep the culture alive. All of our material is social music and dance. We do not do any dances or songs that have any ceremonial or religious significance.”
Be sure to read the article in its entirety and visit the Thunderbird Dancers website for Upcoming Events for Spring / Summer 2013!
Enjoy this You Tube video of the wonderful Thunderbird Native Dancers performing various dances with introductions by Louis Mofsie.
“I think my major accomplishment in life has been to feel proud of my Native heritage and to able to share what I have learned with both Native and non-Native people… for 35 years my emphasis has been on education.Helping people get a greater understanding of the richness and beauty of the Native people through music and dance.” ~Louis Mofsie~ Founder of The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers
Teachers will find free and Complete Lesson Plans with Answer Keys on the following U.S. tribes: Apache, Blackfeet, Cherokee, Choctaw, Crow, Iroquois, Kwakiutl, Mohawk (read about the fascinating “Sky Walkers”) Navajo, Shawnee, Sioux, and Zuni.
We also offer our unique and informative Tribalpedia which offers concise historical and current material about many Native tribes. Included are Discussion Questions for students.
Visit some of our readers’ favorite posts! Many thanks.
There are many legends about how the Indians learned about the Talking Feather”. Here is one of them…
Long years ago, when gods walked this earth and the land beyond, Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei, were together enjoying the warm summer day. It was a day when the crickets chirrupted in the waving, green grass,when they noticed a figure moving towards them.
As the figure approached closer Kanati said “Look, that woman is crying, what could be the matter?” “I can not imagine why anyone would cry on such a glorious day.” Replied Asgaya Gigagei. “Let’s ask her.”
As the woman drew nearer, they could see her buckskin was decorated with beautiful designs and colors. She carried a bundle filled with leaves, sage, and colorful stones and feathers. They knew immediately this woman was a holy being.
Kanati asked her “Holy mother, why are you crying so?” The woman looked up in wonder, because she had been walking with her head down. “I’m crying because the men of my village are fighting constantly! Each thinks his ideas for leading the tribe is the best!” Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei glanced at one another, in perplexity. “Why, if there are so many good ideas for leading your tribe, why are the men fighting? And why aren’t you and the other members happy!” The poor woman shook her head sadly and replied, “Yes, you are right, the men do have very good ideas, but every man wants to speak his own ideas, and not listen to anyone else. They all shout and scream at one another so loudly, that it frightens the children who run and hide behind their mothers. The women are sad because their husbands come to the house upset and angry. Furthermore, the tribe is suffering, because no one can seem to make a decision.” Just then a beautiful Eagle was soaring overhead, Kanati called out “Brother Eagle, may I have one of your feathers, there are poor humans in desperate need!”
Bother Eagle replied “Yes” and shook himself until a single iridescent, large feather fell to the ground. “Many thanks and Blessings on you” said Kanati. Kanati made secret signs and prayers over the Feather. Asgaya Gigagei helped him with the blessings. Kanati then said to the woman “This is the sacred Talking Father, it holds great power for the one who holds it. Go back to your people, hold this feather up in the air, all who see it will fall silent, and listen to what you have to say. Tell all who listen that from now on, who ever holds this feather, all present within the Circle Council must listen to his words. The feather must then be passed on to the next speaker.”
The woman thanked Kanati and Asgaya Gigagei and hurried back to her village where there was total chaos!. Everyone was talking at once, children were crying, men were screaming at each other. As soon as she held the feather over her head, all became quiet! No one could utter a sound! the holy woman proceeded to give the directions given to her by the gods. She then passed the feather to the first man. He called the Talking Circle together, and each man had his say as he held the feather. From that time on that tribe flourished because they now had direction, and each person could hear and understand what their peers said. The people worked together, to build a great nation. Along the way, they shared the wonders of the Talking Feather with other tribes they met. “And that my friends is the true story of how the Talking Feather came to be!”