Dancing For Our Lives
The Dance For All People is drawn from an age-old tradition of the Great Basin/Plateau indigenous peoples which was practiced for the healing, restoration and renewal of Mother Earth and all her beings. This ceremony has been revitalized under the guidance and leadership of Native peoples for the challenging times we are currently living in. The Dance is about each individual taking personal responsibility to make this mission of healing and renewal for the good of all a part of their daily lives. Through the vessel of the Dance, we focus our hearts, minds, and prayers on the transformation of our inner beings based on the premise that we become in our inner lives what we intend to create in the outer world.
In the Long Ago Time…
…it is said the Dance of Old was originally given to the Shoshone/Paiute people by Coyote. For thousands of years this Natayaa helped them to heal, to ward off sickness, to handle harmful events, and to renew Mother Earth.
Emily Hill, an elder of the Eastern Shoshone nation once stated, “The songs were here long before our fathers and our great grandmothers. They say when you sing these songs it makes the grass grow, berries grow, water run. Someone may dream that something may be wrong. They know it, that bad stuff is coming to us and we better be dancing… sending it back, sending it back. That’s the way we dance it. It isn’t just a dance.”
In the 19th century it became the policy of the American government to eradicate all things Indian— language, customs, and religion. So many traditions were lost, while others went underground to be saved by families who held those ways close for future generations, practicing them in secret. Native visionaries Wovoka, Smohalla and Skolaskin of the Great Basin/Columbia Plateau foresaw the challenges of their times. A principle mandate of Wovoka was to foster racial harmony for all people under the Tree of Life. Contemporary traditionalists explain, “The purpose of the dances of long ago were to honor and renew the Earth and perpetuate the customs and traditions of the people in order for them not to be lost.” The practice and protection of these traditional ways meant the People would continue— and so it is today.
EMMA POHIPE DANN & CLYDE HALL
Clyde Hall, (Shoshone/Metis) of Ft. Hall, ID, at the urging of his traditional aunt— Emma Pohipe Dann (Lemhi/Shoshone)— and with the guidance of Spirit was able to replant the seeds of the Dance in 1991 in the concrete canyons of New York City through the support of Charles Lawrence (Blackfoot) and his local community. Since then the Dance has taken root in eight local communities across the U.S.
Clyde Hall has said, “When you dance this Dance, your life WILL change.” Not only each and every dancer, but the Dance itself has changed and grown. The Dance has evolved from the ancient Natayaa ceremony as practiced and visioned by the Great Basin ancestors. Yet it is a traditional ceremony following traditional guidelines, grown from the roots from whence it came, which has prospered and flowered in the days that we now live to change lives for the better with the help of Great Mystery. Truly, it has become the Dance For All People with a life of its own!
The Dance Today
The purpose of the present-day Dance continues to be about healing and renewal: for ourselves, our families, and Mother Earth. In our quest and struggle with modern living we may lose sight of how to pray in a good way, how to seek and give heartfelt council in community, how to receive Spirit in our hearts and lives. In our busy-ness we sometimes even forget how much healing work we have to do! With all the global and personal shiftings being experienced daily, the need for Ceremony in our lives is paramount.
The Dance is a sacred and powerful ceremony to be approached with respect and humility. The Dance is not a workshop, not a relic of the past, and not a reenactment— it is a living tradition. It is not talked about lightly or bragged about grandly, but must be done with the utmost goodness for the healing of ourselves, the Earth and all our Relations.
2015 marked the 25th anniversary of this Dance— now called Dance For All People— helping the people once again who come with good heart and strong vision for a changed life. After some 30 years of diligent prayer and hard work, the original vision is being realized in new ways: the vision of racial harmony, the vision of people of all four directions in the circle of life coming together around the Tree. Once witnessed with one’s own eyes, it is something that each and every dancer can carry in his or her heart back home to nourish and inspire family, friends, and community.
NEW YORK DANCE 2017 WITH IDA MAE GARRISON
While this Dance was born of vision, if it is to survive another 25+ years we must turn our collective attention to finding the paths, the energy, and the inspiration to journey step-by-step towards the seventh generation to come. The life of the Dance is about the personal and collective vision of each and every dancer who is called to it. We all have a piece of the puzzle. Every voice under the Tree of Life needs to be listening and needs to be heard.
The elders of the dance remind us that “all power lies in a circle”. In Ceremony, in community, the power and clarity of our circle is multiplied a thousand-fold. And so we call on each of you to bring your voice, your highest vision, your dreams and your prayers to the Tree of Life. To encourage the process of healing at a global level, we must first change the one thing over which we have real power: ourselves.
And if not now, when?