Native Village Youth and Education News

May 1, 2009 Issue 198
Volume 1

Meskwaki Filmmaker Explores The Shawnee Dance
Condensed by Native Village

Iowa: Tecumseh, the legendary Shawnee leader, promoted unity among all Indian people. His dream was to unite all tribes in one unstoppable force against European invasion. To do this, he traveled to Indian communities from Canada to Florida and from New York to the Plains. His message was shared through fiery speeches and traditional song and dance.

Filmmaker Conrad Brown hopes to promote Tecumseh’s vision with a powerful new documentary, “The Shawnee Dance (Tecumseh's Legacy).” Currently in pre-production, Brown hopes to gather as many Native nations as possible at the upcoming 95th Annual Meskwaki Indian Pow-Wow held at the Tama, Iowa Meskwaki Nation Settlement from August 6-9, 2009.

“Tecumseh was a great man. His life was cut short; he died [in 1813 ]at forty-five, two years younger than I am now. It amazes me, the amount of travel he did and in those times. There were no cars, he did it by horse all over this country. One month he’d be here, then he’d pop up there, always trying to unite. To defeat the United States was his goal, to save his homelands. He is one of my historical heroes,” Brown enthused. “If I was alive back then, I would have followed him anywhere. He’s the man.”

Brown’s documentary will focus on The Shawnee Dance, a little known legacy the great Shawnee Chief left behind. “The dance was taught to the Sac and Fox and the Kickapoo tribes by Tecumseh when he traveled amongst them ...,” said Brown. “The dance is unknown today to the relatives and descendents of the Great Chief, yet, it is a much beloved dance to the tribes fortunate enough to have received instruction. These tribes suffered hardships of warfare, disease, Christian attempts at conversion and the forced removal from their homelands. Despite this fact, the dance survived. As a result of time, the dance has evolved into a social dance for the Sac and Fox. The Kickapoo retained the dance in its original form - a religious dance.”

Brown is a member of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa/Meskwaki. His Indian name is Qwa skwa mi and he’s a member of the Fish Clan. He’s also a traditional singer who grew up in his  tribal community.

“My Grandmother and all my old aunts would go and dance the Shawnee Dance once a year during our Harvest Festival. Sometimes they would dance it at a small gathering in our tribal gym. I used to sit there and watch as they danced it hard, laughing and singing along."

His Grandmother’s stories motivated Brown to intensive research about the Bread Dance. Those helping him included Professor Steve Warren from Augustana College, Professor Colin Calloway from Dartmouth College and Professor R. David Edmunds from the University of Texas.

 Also supporting the documentary is the First Nations Composer Initiative. The group will attend the August Powwow  to film their own documentary about Brown’s project.

Brown plans to have a film crew on site for the upcoming Meskwaki Pow-Wow in August. He hopes that Tribal Elder groups will encourage their leadership to arrange for bus tours to Tama, Iowa to be part of the celebration.

“I want every Native Nation that Tecumseh tried to unite in his alliance to be here,” Brown said. “In this way, at least for one weekend, these Algonquin tribes can fulfill his vision of unity. I wish to complete his quest. If we can take one weekend and become united again and renew old alliances maybe it will send the people a message. This Shawnee Dance has the potential to unite. The dance is that powerful.”

For More Information:
The 95th Annual Meskwaki Indian Pow-Wow. Tama, Iowa Meskwaki Nation Settlement -- August 6-9

Meskwaki Casino Hotelhttp://www. meskwaki. com/hotel. html
Telephone: 1-800-728-GAME extension 2000




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