Native American dance group preps for NMU show

Kali Cochran

A display of tribal moccasins and hoop dancing from a visiting troupe will be offered in a continual celebration of Native American Heritage Month at Northern Michigan University.

re-michelle_hoopThe NMU Center for Native American Studies will host a free performance by the Woodland Sky Native American Dance Company at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18  in the Reynolds Recital Hall.

This will be the group’s first performance here at Northern and The Woodland Singers from Baraga will perform alongside the dancers, according to an NMU press release. The dancers have also performed at many elementary, middle and high schools to educate the students, said Michelle Reed, founding member of the Woodland Sky Dance Company.

“The group performs at schools to teach other Native students more about their heritage and to expand the minds of others on Native American culture,” Reed said. “We also performed at a Green Bay Packers halftime show.”

The Woodland Sky Dance Company was established in 2013 and is comprised of Native American Ojibwe, Sioux and Potawatomi dancers mostly from the Midwest. The company’s name was chosen because the group is made up of members from woodland tribes, that typically lived in forests near lakes or streams and encompassed the Midwestern part of the United States.

The group started with Reed and two other people from Lac du Flambeau, a band  of the Lake Superior Chippewa Tribe in northern Wisconsin.

The Woodland Sky Dance Company’s purpose is to educate the NMU and Marquette audience about Native American art and appreciation of its dance and music, April Lindala, director of the Center of Native American Studies, said.

The Woodland Sky Dance’s performance is different from a powwow because powwows are ceremonial and there are interactions with the community going on.

“At this event people can come and go,” Lindala said.

Lindala hopes many people will join, even if they are not Native American, to get the feel and experience of what is being brought to them. The show gives off a story and those stories reiterate anything from values and beliefs. That’s when the songs and dances get the real explanation, she said.

“It might convey something humorous or rich compared to a video on YouTube,” Lindala said. “You may not need to know it today, but you may need to know it years from now.”

Native art will be available for purchase at the event, which will be free to public admission. More information about the group can be found by searching @nativeamericandancecompany on Facebook and visiting their page.