MIAMI— Wilson Elementary students enrolled in the after-school program had the opportunity to be immersed in the Native American culture of pow wow dancing on Friday.
Former Wilson students Talon Silverhorn, 18, and his sister Cheyenne Boyd, 15, were asked to teach the youngsters about different styles of dances performed in Native American pow wows.
The after school program’s theme for the month of February was Oklahoma, and the school wanted to end it with a special surprise.
Both Wilson and Nichols Upper Elementary received the 21st Century Learning Grant in August, which allows the schools to fund after-school snacks, homework and tutoring sessions and fun, hands-on activities. There are about 65 children enrolled in the program at Wilson.
Silverhorn and Boyd arrived at the school wearing traditional regalia passed down to them by ancestors and tribal members. Boyd wore Southern Cloth while Silverhorn wore Northern Traditional.
“The kids got so excited when they saw them walking in,” said a teacher.
Carrie Silverhorn-Boyd, mother of Talon and Cheyenne, said principal Courtney Murphy had asked her children to perform pow wow dances for the children. Talon has been pow wow dancing for approximately seven years and Cheyenne over a year.
“I actually went to school with Courtney and grew up with her, so she called me and was trying to find some things for the students to do in the after school program tied into their theme,” Carrie said.
Boyd’s Southern Cloth was made by Carrie’s mother and was also her older sister’s. Her cloth is reminiscent of the typical Shawnee dress. It has the big collar that swoops around them for protection.
She always has a shaw and a fan and generally, most women carry a purse, but she is still awaiting hers. When she dances, the shaw fringe will move to the beat of the music.
Once the regalia is outgrown or no longer of use, the owner chooses who they wish to pass it down to.
“Talon’s very first ribbon shirt was tiny with a few ribbons on it, and he actually passed it down to JT Wright, which is Rebecca Wright’s son,” Carrie said. “He passed it down to him because JT is a straight dancer and they wear ribbon shirts, as well. He kept that for several years until he felt like that was the right person to pass it to. They will keep their regalia until they can find someone who can carry it with honor.”
Silverhorn’s bustle and dance stick were given to him by Jack King. His fan was made for Buck Captain, the seventh Eastern Shawnee Chief, which was made by Ronnie Burnside. After Captain passed away, Burnside held onto it until he found someone worthy. His breastplate came from Perry Houser, who recently passed.
“It was Perry’s last request that I receive this breastplate,” Silverhorn said. “He worked on it until his dying day. He made them wait until after he was gone to give it to me.”
Boyd’s dance is very elegant and holds a high position of honor. Silverhorn’s regalia is based off a warrior who is dressed for battle, which can be reflected in his style of dancing. He wears about 50 pounds of regalia.
“What he does when he dances, he tells a story about a battle, which is why he has a small shield and a dance stick,” Carrie said. “He has a breastplate, so he can’t have arrows shot at him. When he dances, he’ll track, look for footprints and where the enemy has been. He’s ready to fight.”
Silverhorn's bloodline is part Kiowa, Eastern Shawnee, Wyandotte, Wichita and Shoshone Tribe. Boyd is of Choctaw descent.
The youngsters gathered outside, and their excitement grew as Boyd and Silverhorn walked out wearing their regalia. Silverhorn started speaking to them in Native American tongues and taught them different words. He had asked them if they have ever seen anyone like him before and most of them replied “No!”
“Did you know that right here in Ottawa County, there are more tribes than anywhere else in the United States?” Silverhorn asked the children. “Does anybody know how many there are?”
Young voices screamed nine in unison and Silverhorn proceeded to tell him about the dances he would perform. The first dance they performed was Intertribal.
“This means that both boys and girls can dance,” Silverhorn said. “Me and her are going to dance together and I want you guys to look and see how we’re different when we dance.”
The children all watched with amazement and clapped along to the beat of the drums as Boyd and Silverhorn danced. Then, Silverhorn performed the Crow Hop, which is a very energetic dance resembling the bird hopping through a field. He went onto explained more about pow wows and traditional dances.
The next dance the siblings performed was the round dance, which they demonstrated to the children and then had them dance alongside them. The children screamed with excitement for the opportunity to be part of the mini pow wow.
“It’s a really easy dance to do,” Silverhorn said. “The boys line up behind the Head Man and the girls line up behind the Head Lady. You guys just follow our footsteps.”
As Silverhorn and Boyd got into position and started their movements, the youngsters followed and caught on very quickly. Silverhorn performed one last dance and then answered the children’s questions. Lastly, he sang them a traditional Native American song.
The siblings said it was a fun and interesting way to share their culture with the younger generation.
“We hope that they realize this isn’t something that’s gone,” Silverhorn said. “I’ve been to places where they didn’t realize that Indians were still around. They didn’t realize that they were Indians. I guess nobody ever told them, explained to them or they just have never seen it. They only thought it was something they read about in textbooks or saw in movies.”
Boyd and Silverhorn said they knew they were Native American since they were young children.
“With me growing up, I was fair skinned, green eyed with blond hair and I wasn’t allowed to participate in a lot of things,” Carrie said. “When I went to an all native college, I learned very quickly that you have to really fight for what you are and what you believe in. When I had my kids, I wanted to make sure that they knew who they were.”
As a thank you, the school gave them t-shirts to take home. Overall, it was easy to say that the children and teachers had a blast.
“This was really eye opening to these kids,” said teacher’s aide Chris Portenier. “We’ve been studying Oklahoma, and we’ve been talking about Native Americans. We made little stuff to go with it and prepared them yesterday that you guys were coming. They were so excited.”