By Jenna Ebersole
The traditional, butterfly and grass dances enlivened a group of children with diverse cultural backgrounds as the colorful feathers and outfits flitted lightly across the lawn.
About eight children part of the Eagle Feather Club in New Town quietly moved in step with the different dances during Fort Union’s annual Indian Arts Showcase Saturday. Dressed in pink and purple and blue and orange, the laughing and running kids settled silently into the steps as the drums and songs rang out behind them.
The students travel across the state performing, Superintendent of New Town Public Schools Marc Bluestone said.
He said the students enjoy other fun things about the traveling – including time in the pool and a movie – but also enjoy the dancing.
“It’s a nice little place for our kids to dance,” he said of the fort.
Tourists surrounded the dancing area to watch as former Pow Wow circuit member Joe McGillis announced each new movement.
Thearsha Bartlett, 10, said before the dance started that she loves doing it.
“I’ve been waiting all day,” she said. “It’s really fun and it helps you get exercise.”
Marc Bluestone Jr., son of the superintendent who brought the group along for the event, agreed.
“I would probably be sitting at home doing nothing,” he said if he didn’t dance.
The event started as McGillis introduced the group and gave some background for the crowd. With an entry song, flag song and veterans song, the dancing kicked off. But first, McGillis reminded the crowd not to worry about the cloudy weather.
“Things turn out the way they’re supposed to,” he said with a smile. “Mother Nature’s in charge.”
McGillis told the story behind each dance before the children started, with a butterfly dance mimicking a butterfly emerging anew and a medicine dance first performed to heal an ailing granddaughter.
McGillis said the singers of each song do not have lyrics written or sheet music to work from.
“They carry them around up here,” he said as he pointed to his mind. Before singing, the most important thing is “catching the spirit,” he said.
Jim and Joy Sorenson of Mandan said before the show that they were in the area and enjoyed these kinds of events.
Joy Sorenson, who said she had a very small percentage of American Indian background, said she loves everything about buffalos and here dad was once a trapper himself.
She said she had accumulated a lot of new gifts for her 23 grandchildren’s coming birthdays and this Christmas.
“I was a history major and it never got out of my blood,” her husband smiled.