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Letter to the editor

I was bashful, intimidated by the world. I was the child who held tightly to my mother’s hand, refusing to take a step on my own. At every powwow, I stood alongside my mother, secretly hopping to the beat of the drums, quickly stopping whenever she looked down at me. The dancers were so beautiful, and so peaceful. I wondered what that felt like. One morning my mother came into my room holding a purple dress with butterflies on it. I guess I wasn’t as sly as I thought I was.

I was five years old when I began to dance. My mother taught me the steps, handmade my dresses, braided my hair, and drove my brothers and I to powwows. Before the first beat of the drum I’d look at her and she’d give me a nod, as to say thank you. Thank you for allowing me to pass this down to you. Thank you for embracing your identity. Thank you for dancing for those of us who have stopped.

From the moccasins on my feet to the feather in my hair, my regalia is sacred because it was handmade, and shared with me through love and pride. Every dancer has their own story of how they began, but what we all share is the love and respect for our family, tribe, and our self. We stand tall and in harmony with our people. We dance for healing, for strength, in remembrance, and for hope. In the words of Sherman Alexie, “I was dancing for my soul and for the soul of my tribe. I was dancing for what we Indians used to be and who we might become again.” Through my dancing I felt the pride of my ancestors and the warmth of grandparents I never had the chance to meet. For a few minutes the world is halted and I become the only movement. It is endurance, poise and elegance.

- Shandiin Herrera (T'19)

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