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Meskwaki members bring native storytelling and dance to the MU

Native+American+storyteller+and+fancy+fancer%2C+Larry+Yazzie%2C+performs+in+the+Great+Hall+of+the+Memorial+Union+on+Thursday%2C+Nov.+30%2C+2023.+Yazzie+is+a+member+of+the+Meskwaki+Nation.+Located+near+Tama%2C+it+is+the+only+federally+recognized+tribe+in+Iowa.+
Brielle Tuttle
Native American storyteller and fancy fancer, Larry Yazzie, performs in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. Yazzie is a member of the Meskwaki Nation. Located near Tama, it is the only federally recognized tribe in Iowa.

Larry Yazzie and fellow Meskwaki performers showcased traditional powwow dances Thursday at the Memorial Union.

The free event, which took place in the Durham Great Hall, featured a sneak preview of the annual Meskwaki Powwow in Tama, Iowa. Yazzie and his nephew, Romeo Buffalo, performed traditional dances performed at powwows to the beat of drummers from the Meskwaki settlement.

Yazzie wore regalia weighing up to 40 pounds and including eagle feathers, porcupine quills, beads and horse hair. When Yazzie danced, the garments shook with him and made noise to the beat of the drum.

The event featured several traditional Meskwaki dances, including the Pipe Dance, the Buffalo Head Dance, the Meskwaki Dance and the Fancy War Dance.

In between his dances, Yazzie spoke to the audience about the importance of keeping Native American traditions and culture alive.

“The reason I have such a passion for this … is because I want to learn as much as I can,” Yazzie said.

Yazzie detailed the struggles Native Americans have had to go through, citing the Trail of Tears and Indian boarding schools in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Yazzie also spoke on the personal impact of performing these dances.

Romeo Buffalo watches his uncle, Larry Yazzie, a Native American storyteller and fancy dancer, perform in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. Buffalo and Yazzie a members of the Meskwaki Nation. Located in Tama, it is the only federally recognized tribe in Iowa. (Brielle Tuttle)

“Dancing has saved my life,” Yazzie said. “Dancing was a way for me to escape.”

Before concluding, Yazzie invited the audience to join him in a Round dance. During the dance, attendees joined hands in a circle around the Great Hall and danced to the beat of the drums.

The Meskwaki Annual Powwow takes place in Tama, Iowa during the second full weekend of August, featuring traditional Meskwaki dancing and singing, native artwork, games and food. For more information, visit the website.

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