By Alana Listoe
The energy of Dancing Earth evokes a primal force that is said to illuminate cultural and spiritual relevance through their articulate movements choreographed by creator Rulan Tangen.
“For some, this may be the first time they’ve ever met a Native American,” Tangen said. “That might seem like a stretch, but 70 percent of our museum-goers believe that Native Americans are extinct.”
Tangen said the group is a vibrant mix of professional dancers who have a positive outlook for native people.
In any case, this is a revealing statistic. Even though Indian casinos and events like the tribal summit and the Cobell settlement make the news occasionally, people are still clueless about Indians. They must think modern Indians are fakes. Perhaps casinos hire actors to call themselves Indians. The "real" Indians--you know, the ones with feathers and leathers--are extinct.
We can imagine the consequences of such ignorance. When 70% think Indians are extinct, who's going to push for economic development, health care, or law enforcement for Indians? Who's going to teach about Indians in school, make movies about Indians, or oppose Indian stereotypes? Only 30% of the population at most, and probably only a fraction of that.
It seems clear to me how this lack of knowledge cascades through our culture, affecting every aspect of Indian life. That's why alleviating this ignorance is a fundamental part of the problem. As I said in Educational Value of Blogging and Rob Should Fight Poverty?!, that's why I focus on educating people.
Dancing Earth is educating people too. So are all the Native artists, writers, teachers, and activists. Every museum exhibit, parade float, or TV show reminds people that Indians still exist.
For more on Native dance, see Yup'ik Swan Lake and Cheyenne River Glitter Girls.