By Jeff Rebitski, Staff Writer
As the sun was heating the grass around the Tee-Pees that are erected at the Wind River Casino, people from all walks of life and from all around the United States gathered to observe one of the most colorful parts of Arapaho culture.
The “Little Brave Drum Group” Began to beat the giant drum that sat in the middle of the group. Each member was armed for battle with a single drumstick and knew the role they each played in the rhythm of the dance that was about to take place.
The dancers that represent the Wind River Hotel and Casino were in full native regalia and were warming up to demonstrate the ritual steps that are part of the heritage of the Arapaho People. With a sudden and exuberant call to action, the drum exploded into action and the dancers started to move, at first with barely noticeable ticks, quickly moving to a very rhythmic and similar shuffle.
Brandon Brown, Director of Promotions for the casino states, “The reason for this exhibition each week is to educate the public and celebrate life. This is our culture to share and we want the community to know our traditions.” Each dancer was adorned with the traditional bangles and symbols that represent some ancient meaning. The colorful textiles may go beyond what traditional outfits would have been, but that is part of what Dean Littleshield, Fancy Dancer called “having a foot in each world.” Dean represents “The Messenger” in his dance routine and his “outfit” has meanings from both the old and the modern world. He describes what he does with huge feather plumes that vibrate vividly with the rhythmic and dynamic movements he does during his routine. “I want the people to know that there are two worlds that an Arapaho person must live in.” His mixture of modern symbolism and the ancient adornments gives a person pause to think about their meanings. Dean is so covered, that his face is barely visible through the feathers, leather and jewelry that hangs from his neck to his feet.(see inset)
It is almost always a family affair when dancing and there was no exception tonight. Sons and daughters alike circled around the center of what would have been a fire. The Jingle dancers and shawl dancers brought so much color to the equation that it is hard to focus as they move quickly, causing their jingles to jangle.
A missionary group from Michigan watched on and ultimately joined in when invited to dance in a community “Round Dance,” followed by the “Snake Dance.” Each person that joined the circle was jubilant, laughter filled the circle and drowned out the drone from the trucks passing on the highway. “Unity” is the word I would use to describe the vibe, it was a memorable moment.
The Dance Exhibition can be seen only once more this year at the casino on August 2nd at 5:00 P.M. The series will then be over for this season. The casino still offers the museum inside for those who wish to experience artifacts from the ancient days of the Arapaho people.