The Thunderbird Dancers: Preserving Culture & Traditions…

March 14th, 2013  |  Published in Education

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.

Dancers. Photo- Thunderbird Website

Excerpt: Saving the Dance: Louis Mofsie… Tish Leizens 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.

Louis Mofsie, Photo ICTMN

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.

Thunderbird American Indian Dancers. Photo-website.

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.

Thunderbird American Indian Dancers. Photo-Long Island Newsday.

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?

The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers Annual Dance Concert and Pow-Wow. Photo- Lee Wexler: NYCgo.com

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.

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