News
JUNEAU - When the Yaaw Tei Yi Native dance group first formed eight years ago, they never thought they would end up performing outside of Juneau, let alone at a presidential inauguration. Now, the group is preparing to travel to Washington, D.C. to help celebrate the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.
Dancing to the White House 120308 NEWS 1 CCW Staff Writer JUNEAU - When the Yaaw Tei Yi Native dance group first formed eight years ago, they never thought they would end up performing outside of Juneau, let alone at a presidential inauguration. Now, the group is preparing to travel to Washington, D.C. to help celebrate the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

Katie Spielberger Photos

The Yaaw Tei Yi Native dance group performed Nov. 28 at Juneau's Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall in celebration of National American Indian Heritage Month and the first arts and crafts fair in the hall. The performance was free and open to the public. The group accepted an invitation to perform in Washington, D.C. in celebration of President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.


Katie Spielberger photo

The Yaaw Tei Yi Native dance group performed Nov. 28 at Juneau's Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall in celebration of National American Indian Heritage Month and the first arts and crafts fair in the hall. The performance was free and open to the public. The group accepted an invitation to perform in Washington, D.C. in celebration of President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration.

Click Thumbnails to View
Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Story last updated at 12/3/2008 - 2:01 pm

Dancing to the White House
Yaaw Tei Yi Native dancers to perform during Obama's inauguration festivities

JUNEAU - When the Yaaw Tei Yi Native dance group first formed eight years ago, they never thought they would end up performing outside of Juneau, let alone at a presidential inauguration. Now, the group is preparing to travel to Washington, D.C. to help celebrate the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

"We never thought about traveling around the country," said group leader Andy Ebona, who helped found the group in 2000.

But the group started attracting the attention of people outside Juneau, and invitations to perform arrived from organizations around the country. From an original core group of about 15 members, the Herring Rock Dancers have grown to 52 members, with ages ranging from six months to 84 years old. Around 20 people will travel to Washington, D.C., which Ebona said is a good number for a performance.

"Yaaw Tei Yi," or "Herring Rock," refers to a Kiks.adi clan story in which a Kiks.adi woman sits on a rock in front of her village to watch herring encircle the rock.

The Herring Rock dance group was formed by members of the Kiks.adi who wanted to learn their clan songs and share them with others. Ebona's sister, Andrea Ebona-Michel, is the lead drummer of the group and was also instrumental in getting the group started.

"Primarily at the urging of our late mother, (we started the group) mainly because we wanted to learn our songs," Ebona said.

In order to travel with the group, each individual must learn the songs, perform the dances and participate in fundraisers, Ebona said.

The National Indian Gaming Association has sponsored the group to come to a number of events, as has the National Congress of American Indians. The group recently returned from San Francisco, where they performed at the American Indian Film Festival.

One of the highlights of the group's travels was a two-week cultural exchange with the Maori in New Zealand, a "phenomenal trip," Ebona said.

While in D.C., the group will perform at the National Musician of the American Indian and at a pow-wow sponsored by the American Indian Society of Washington, D.C.

Group members will then attend the American Indian Inaugural Ball.

"Everybody's trying to figure out what they're going to wear," Ebona said.

The travel is exciting and attractive, of course, but the group members stick with the group because of their shared dedication to learning and performing their clan's songs. The group is very disciplined, Ebona said, with regular practices and frequent performances.

Although founded by members of the Kiks.adi clan, the group includes members from several different clans and frequently performs songs and dances of other clans as well.. About 10 of the group's members live in other communities, as far away as Kotzebue and Los Angeles.

The group's elders have taught many of the songs and dancers. Some members came from other dance groups and brought that knowledge with them as well. All members bring their own regalia to wear during performances.

The frog is the animal crest of the Kiks.adi clan, and observers will see frogs on many of the dancers' regalia. Other clans and their animal crests represented in the group include the Deisheetaan (Beaver), L'uknax.adi (Coho), Kaagwantan (Eagle), Dakl'aweidi (Killer Whale), L'eeneidi (Dog Salmon) and Haida Frog.

A typical 30-minute performance for the group will include about seven songs, including songs from several different clans.

"We acknowledge where the songs are from and thank them for allowing us to use their songs," Ebona said.

A performance usually includes at least one dance is which audience members are invited to join in the dancing.

"That's usually a pretty big hit with people," Ebona said. "We try to make sure we have some kind of audience participation."

At the group's Nov. 28 performance in celebration of National American Indian Heritage Day, Ebona introduced the participatory dance by joking that nobody was allowed to leave the hall - but nobody seemed poised to run for the exit. Moments later, everyone from toddlers to elders seemed happy to be pulled along with the dancers, moving to the beats of the drums.


Loading...