Photo by Charity Maness/Fall River County Herald Star
Dallas Chief Eagle performs hoop dancing with enthusiastic students from Hot Springs Elementary at the Mueller Center.
By Charity Maness
HOT SPRINGS – Dallas Chief Eagle Jr. visited Hot Springs this past week, meeting with youth at Edgemont and Hot Springs schools while sharing lessons on ‘Making good choices’ through use of a drum circle, hoop dancing and personal wisdom from years of guidance counseling.
Chief Eagle holds a Masters Degree in guidance counseling and personal services, as well as being a recognized World Hoop Dance Champion as a Rosebud Sioux Tribal Member.
“I enjoy working with youth,” said Dallas Chief Eagle, of teaching local youth at Hot Springs Elementary how to practice the skill of ‘one minute of clearing the mind, heart and body.’ “They are not overloaded in their heads or with emotions; they don’t have as many fears as adults so it is easier to do this work.”
He spoke to the children explaining that one minute of calm, stopping all thought, “gives your mind, heart and body a rest and opens the doorway to the spirit, giving your spirit a chance to be the leader.”
“Now they know what to do when a challenge come ups,” said Chief Eagle, “someday they can use this skill to help manage themselves so they don’t have to go very far to find a solution.”
Chief Eagle proceeded to show the youth some hoop dance moves. With each student using three hoops they performed such dance moves as arrow, butterfly, eagle, dragon and more helping them “tap into their own creativity” as the hoop dance itself is a form of storytelling and prayer.
“I loved it,” said Teagan Ferley of her work with him, “it was fun.”
“This is a great opportunity for our students to be exposed to the Native American culture,” said Abby Karn, Hot Springs Elementary School Principal. “My hope is that students will have a better understanding of the legendary Hoop Dance and hear stories from a Native American storyteller.”
According to Karn, 11 percent of the school district’s student population identify as Native American with that percentage rising yearly.
On Thursday evening, Chief Eagle expanded his reach into the community at-large with a Hoop Dance presentation at the Mueller Center, performing with many of the children he had been teaching earlier in the week.
The hoop signifies the circle of life with hoop dancers often marking their hoops with four marks to symbolize the four seasons, the four cardinal directions, and the four sacred colors. According to History of the Modern Hoop Dance the four sacred colors are black representing fall and West, red representing summer and South, yellow representing spring and East, and white representing winter and North.
For Chief Eagle, he wears the colors black, red, yellow and white “signifying the four directions”. He begins his dance pointing out the horizon “as it follows between Mother Earth and Father sky showing balance while continuing to add spirits” throughout the dance.
Chief Eagle and the children began the event with centering and allowing spirit to guide the dance, followed by dance moves using up to five hoops. In the finale Chief Eagle moved through and around his colorful hoops with agility and grace, the rhythmic music calling to him while he danced.
Chautaqua Craftsmen and Artisans of the Black Hills (CCABH) sponsored the event through a grant from the Black Hills by Choice philanthropic group with funding provided by the Black Hills Area Community Foundation.
“Many thanks to the Black Hills by Choice for the grant which allows us the opportunity to bring people of Dallas Chief Eagle Jr.’s caliber to Hot Springs,” said Terry Slagel, Board member at CCABH, “it is an honor to be able to provide cultural and artistic experiences to the children in our schools as well as to the community as a whole.”
The event was also made possible with a matching funds from the South Dakota Arts Council through the Artists in Schools and Communities Grant.