Scottsdale noontime festivals showcase Native American dancers

The resounding drumbeat of American Indian culture in the Southwest will grow louder January through April 2015 with the return of Native Trails, presented by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and produced by the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

For the first time in its 13-year history, this series of free lunchtime performances in Scottsdale Civic Center Park will focus on passing the tradition of singing and dancing from one generation to the next.

native trails“Young and old will dance together,” said Derrick Suwaima Davis (Hopi/Choctaw), artistic director for Native Trails and seven-time hoop dance world champion. “By having multiple generations of dancers perform, we will demonstrate that although our traditions date back thousands of years, they are still very much alive.”

Mr. Davis himself began learning the tradition of singing and dancing as a child. Today, Mr. Davis is not only the foremost expert at the hoop dance, but he is also teaching his own children the art of maneuvering hoops to tell the stories of their culture.

Together they practice weaving the hoops to resemble various elements of the natural world – earth, eagle, horse, and butterfly. Watch Mr. Davis’s talents on display here.

Mr. Davis and other performers from the Hopi, Diné (Navajo), Hualapai and San Carlos Apache tribes will take the outdoor stage from noon to 1 p.m. most Thursdays and Saturdays Jan. 8 through April 4, 2015.

On Saturdays, youth performers will join the festivities as the dancers demonstrate the Eagle Dance, the Southwest Horse Dance, and inter-tribal pow wow dances. Attendees are encouraged to stay for the finale, the audience-participation Round Dance, which celebrates the connection of all people and cultures. Plus, the cast will answer questions following the performance.

With every drumbeat, the performers’ message is clear: American Indians in the Southwest continue to hold their traditions dear.

Song and dance are not the only traditions living on in the tribes. Throughout history, American Indians have used crafts and art as forms of cultural expression. Artisans and vendors will sell jewelry, baskets, pottery, instruments and paintings during the festivals. Each Saturday a featured artist will demonstrate his or her craft live before the crowd.

“The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation is proud to once again be the title sponsor of Native Trails,” said the Nation’s President Ruben Balderas. “The Tribal Council knows local residents and visitors alike will enjoy learning about the various native tribal cultures and partaking in the exciting exhibits and shows.  Native Trails is truly a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

This year’s events will also highlight giving to others in need, another cultural belief emphasized in American Indian culture. Each week, Homebase Youth Services Native American Connections, which provides income-based and affordable housing to those in need, will be collecting donations during Native Trails. Food, clothing, hygiene and household items are on the organization’s wish list.

Native Trails performances began in January 2003 as part of the City of Scottsdale’s cultural tourism initiative, Culture Quest Scottsdale. The program was created following a city-conducted study that revealed Scottsdale tourists craved experiencing American Indian culture during their visit. That has proved true each season; last season (January – April 2014), 4,237 people attended the event.

For more information on Native Trails (including blackout dates), visit www.ScottsdaleNativeTrails.com or contact the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau at 480-421-1004 or toll-free at 800-782-1117.

The Scottsdale Independent is published monthly and mailed to 75,000 homes and businesses in Scottsdale.

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