Category Archives: Dancing

The Grizzly Bear Dance: Beautiful and Sacred

“You may have already seen the videos shared online on various YouTube and Facebook pages. A grizzly bear dancer dancing at the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Pow Wow. She is possibly one of the only female Grizzly Bear dancers in the world… the dance was absolutely mesmerizing.” T. Brown

Laura Grizzlypaws- Pow

Laura Grizzlypaws- Pow

Excerpt: St’át’imc Grizzly Bear Dancer Shares Her Story by Toyacoyah Brown,

“I don’t know about you, but I had never seen anything like it in my neck of the woods and was wondering a little bit more about the dance and its origins. I reached out to the dancer in the videos and she was willing to share her story… Below is a little bit more about her journey.

Laura John was born and raised in Lillooet, British Columbia in the Interior Plateau region, she is of St’át’imc descent. Her St’át’imc name is Stálhalamcen – Grizzly Paws… She belongs to the people of Xwisten the Bear Clan. She is a mother of three children (boys). All three boys carry St’ảt’imc names as their first name and were named through ceremonial practice and the Elders of her family. Laura is a dancer, drummer, singer/songwriter, academic, educator and a language and cultural advocate.

  The Bear Dance 

The cultural expressions of the St’at’imc are a very important aspect of the St’at’imc with songs, dances and the social interactions of the people. The Grizzly Bear dance is an expression of culture that is unique and authentic.

I walked where the Grizzly Bear dances. I feel his pleasure, excitement and freedom on the earth and in the wind that carries his messages from the past. I dance where the Grizzly Bear danced his steps leaving an ancestral footprint on the land like a cellular memory in my blood. His face is a shadow that calls to me as the wind calls his name St’alhalam. The Grizzly Bear he sings his songs as we unite under his skin. I now walk where he left his ancestral footprints. I heard his prayer, I felt his pain, I am his anger, I am his hope, I am his faith.”

NOTE:  Laura Grizzlypaws at Gathering of Nations will be coming to the Oregon State University Pow Wow on May 14th in Corvallis Oregon

“I truly believe as Indigenous peoples we should be embracing our traditions, our songs, stories and dances and bringing them to life to instill hope, to have faith and to give thanks for ourselves, while honoring our ancestors and especially to give hope to our younger generations.~ Laura Grizzlypaws~

Category: Dancing

Men’s Fancy Dancing: Strength, Beauty, Energy!

O’siyo. The  film “Dance Hard” follows a contestant of the Fancy Dance as he competes in various Pow wowsbin various Native communities. Fancy Dancers are very energetic and their regalia consists of large feather bustles worn on their backs, with a colorful cape and apron trimmed with fringes and beadwork. Fancy Dancers are  considered by many to be the most athletic and coordinated of  Native dancers. The producers of  ‘Dance Hard” are working with famous fancy dancer Norman Roach of the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.

Norman Roach, champion fancy dancer. Photo- ICTMN

Norman Roach, Champion Fancy Dancer. Photo- ICTMN

Excerpt: Life of a Pow Wow Fancy Dancer By Scott Barta, ICTMN

“The first of its kind Hollywood film about American Indian life on the pow wow circuit is tentatively set to begin filming this July. The story will follow the life of a young men’s fancy dance contestant who travels and competes at pow wows held in Native communities across the Plains and Southwest.

World Champion Fancy Dancer Larry Yazzie  of the Meskwaki Nation   Photo- Ethnic pride.

World Champion Fancy Dancer Larry Yazzie of the Meskwaki Nation Photo- Ethnic pride.

The production entitled, Dance Hard, is a behind-the-scenes look at pow-wow life and will take approximately four weeks to film. The film project will be employing local tradespeople and casting and lead actors and extras from among fresh, new local talent from many states, including New Mexico, South Dakota, and Montana, as well as Canada. The writer, producer, and director of the project is Megan Clare Johnson. Joining Johnson is producer Steve Beswick of POV Pictures, also based in Los Angeles.

We are extremely pleased to be the first filmmakers to cover such an amazing and thrilling American Indian art form and bring it into the living rooms and theaters of the American people.” said Beswick. We will be employing local talent and featuring new faces on the big screen who are from the reservations in and near the states of New Mexico, South Dakota and Montana.
The fancy dance is a most vibrant and crowd-pleasing category, featuring remarkably athletic and agile dancers who not only keep perfect beat but also can stop with the drum at anytime the singers decide to stop the beat.

Travis Lovett, of Atlanta, competes in the men's fancy dance during the American Indian Festival Lawrenceville, Ga. Photo- AJC.

Travis Lovett, of Atlanta, competes in the men’s Fancy Dance during the American Indian Festival Lawrenceville, Ga. Photo- AJC.

The producers are excited to be working with an expert and primary consultant on pow wows, Norman Roach, who hails from the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota…Roach was featured in the PBS Dance in America series and also in the American Indian Dance Theater production of Finding the Circle. Roach is joined as a consultant by Robert “Tree” Cody, an enrolled member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community from Arizona… Both he and Roach have been on the pow wow trail” since the late 1950s.” Read more…

To learn more about the Dance Hard film project, visit here:

The Movie

Video: Grand Celebration Powwow 2012: Larry Yazzie  two-time World Champion Fancy Dancer. Larry Yazzie is a member of the Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa/Meskwaki. 


“I have learned to accept the obstacles and challenges that come my way and to deal with them. Life’s not easy sometimes, but I’ve done my best to keep trying to move forward, to express my art and share it with others.” ~ Larry Yazzie,  Champion Fancy Dancer~


Category: Dancing

The Thunderbird Dancers: Preserving Culture & Traditions…

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:

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.

Category: Dancing