Native American Heritage Month at ASU kicks off with dance performance

Indigenous Enterprise, an ASU alumni-owned Native American dance troupe, performed at the Friday event

On Nov. 5, the Herberger Institute of Design and Arts hosted the Indigenous Dancer's Showcase at the Nelson Fine Arts Plaza on the Tempe campus to help kick-start Native American Heritage Month.

Through the month of November, ASU will be hosting different events to celebrate and showcase Native American culture.

The dancers who performed were a part of Indigenous Enterprise, an ASU alumni-owned Native American dance troupe and clothing brand.

The brand, which was founded in 2015, has performed internationally and has been featured on the NBC reality competition show "World of Dance." Indigenous Enterprise was recently featured in the New York Times and will be performing in New York City beginning Tuesday through Nov. 12.

The group at the event was made up of three dancers and a singer. The troupe also participated in the Herberger Institute Day by teaching a workshop on Native American Powwow dance styles the day previous.

Jadarius Conn, a junior studying film and media production, originally coordinated the event to promote student engagement in the Adelphi residential community where he is a creative mentor.

However, once he realized this event and his culture could be shared with a wider audience, he opened it up to the whole ASU community, Conn said.

Conn's hope for the event was for non-Indigenous people to acknowledge the existence of Native Americans and their traditions as more than just ceremonial.

"There's more to Native Americans than headdresses, war bonnets or cool shoes," Conn said. "I want to show that this is life beyond art."

Each dancer from Indigenous Enterprise specialized in a specific style of Powwow dance, including Men's Fancy Dance, Men's Prairie Chicken Dance and Jingle Dress Dance. The dances come from Indigenous nations such as the Ponca, Ojibwa and the Blackfoot.

Throughout the event, dancers took the time to explain the origins and meaning of their dances and regalia, as well as their personal history with this style of performance.

In addition to dancing, the event also showcased food and singing to help create a more immersive learning experience for the audience.

Food was provided by Emerson Fry Bread, a Phoenix-based food truck. Indian tacos, which are fry bread topped with meat, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and sour cream, were given to audience members for free.

The event also managed to reach a crowd outside of the ASU community.

Dalavai Surveyor, a student from Estrella Mountain Community College with Diné heritage, came to the event with her sister after hearing about it through a program at a Mesa Community College event. For them, seeing other multi-tribal people performing helped them feel more represented.

Being Indigenous, "people feel like you're extinct," Surveyor said.

Surveyor also enjoyed seeing the crowd being respectful and receptive toward the event and hearing the dancers explain the significance of their regalia, without it being seen as a costume.

Lourdes Pereira, Miss Indigenous ASU and a junior studying justice studies and American Indian studies, served as an emcee for the event.

Pereira wants the audience to see this event as an opportunity to network and get more involved with the community.

She said that with over 3,600 Indigenous students, over 10 student organizations, and three different Indigenous departments, she wants to see more community engagement, especially from non-Indigenous people.

"I just hope that they take a step to learn more about the land they are walking on," Pereira said.


Reach the reporter at sbalas44@asu.edu and follow @sophiabala1101 on Twitter.

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