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Celebrating Indigenous culture through the arts

Nanabah Kadenhii of Indigenous Enterprise performing a Hoop Dance on March 15.

Weber State University hosted a performance of “Indigenous Soundscapes in Motion” on March 15 at the Browning Center. “Indigenous Soundscapes” consisted of a collection of traditional songs and dances from several Indigenous cultures in the U.S.

The show was a small glimpse into the diversity of Native American culture.

“Indigenous Soundscapes” started with an opening blessing given by Darren Parry, a Shoshone elder and professor at the University of Utah. Part of the blessing included a plea for the audience to “listen to and learn the lessons that will be taught,” and “listen with your heart.” Parry’s blessing was immediately followed by a musical number titled “Retrouvaille.”

“Retrouvaille” was performed by Hovia Edwards, a Shoshone flutist from the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Idaho.

According to Edwards, “Retrouvaille” is a song meant to invoke feelings of love and appreciation. Though it has no lyrics, “Retrouvaille” left audience members in awed silence before erupting in applause.

The next number, performed by Navajo singer and storyteller Radmilla Cody, was called “The Spirit of a Woman” and had a similar effect. “The Spirit of a Woman” outlined what it is to be a woman and to have the ability to create life. The piece is spoken with hints of flute and cello music in the background.

“For it is the world I carry in my heart, it is the world that I give life,” Cody said.

Cody performed three songs, one of which was sung as a tribute to her relative Klee Jones Benally. The song, called “A Beautiful Dawn,” honored the memory of Benally, a powerful warrior and land defender.

Most of the pieces performed in “Indigenous Soundscapes” centered around feelings of connection both to the Earth and to fellow humans. This feeling of connection to Earth was made obvious through the reactions of audience members, particularly during a piece titled “From the Earth.”

“From the Earth” was a percussion solo performed by Rolando Morales-Matos, a Puerto Rican composer and faculty member at the Curtis Institute of Music at New Jersey City University. The piece imitated the sounds and feelings of a thunderstorm, starting soft, then raging before turning back to peace. Needless to say, “From the Earth” had audience members hanging on the edge of their seats.

There were several times during the show that the performers took a moment to interact with the audience. One performer in particular, Wayne Silas Jr., appeared to enjoy talking to the crowd.

Silas, a Menominee-Oneida singer, drummer and dancer, performed three love songs. One of these songs, “Pretty Lady,” rapidly turned into a crowd favorite, with audience members laughing out loud at the lyrics.

After the song, Silas said, “It’s all in good fun.”

Of all the numbers in the show, those by the dance group Indigenous Enterprise earned the biggest reactions. The three members each performed a traditional Tribal dance. The dancers fed off the audience’s energy, dancing harder as the cheers grew louder.

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Reagan Whiting
Reagan Whiting, Culture reporter

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