One foot in front of the other! Each step an act of respect! As the entrance gets closer so does the singing, echoing off the walls! The rhythmic chanting all to the pulse of one heart!
His feet start moving to the rhythm! His body starts to react in one fluid motion! He moves as if carried by the most gentle breeze, ghost like, as if a mirage, something too beautiful to be true!
The singing is all around him now, blanketing him with a surreal calm and peace of mind. The pulse of one heart gives his body a sense of confidence so strong that as he enters the arena time seems to be temporarily suspended as everyone turns to see this young man!
Slowly everything but the music fades away and the only thing important now is the dance!
He didn’t come to dance for competition, that wasn’t important to him. He came to dance for his people! His dance was a living, breathing prayer for them. His own personal ghost dance.
Except this time there would be no cavalry to come and gun him down for his beliefs. There would be no last stand today. Today there would only be an act of redemption!
He wore a roach on his head, a beaded buckskin shirt and leggings, moccasins and he carried in his hand one single eagle feather. It looked as if he had somehow come from the past.
He danced with natural precision. Swaying, hopping, bobbing, spinning, and as everyone watches they wonder if maybe somehow he’s a dream because he dances so fluidly it doesn’t seem real!
As he dances he can see them all and his heart fills with pride! A sense of unity begins to spread throughout the arena like the infectious laughter of a child. All eyes on the arena. Even the younger children stop their play to watch this enigma of a man.
Somehow as he dances all their fears are lifted and a sense of hope is restored. All their worries and wants are forgotten! They remember loved ones as they watch and they think of those struggling to get by in this life, the less fortunate and the forgotten. Those on the streets with easily forgettable faces because they know it could just as easily be any one of them. They remember and they pray for those of us who have lost our way.
As he dances he can see their thoughts and he is overcome with a sense of urgency. The drummers seem to know this and the beat speeds up as well as his feet.
He dances harder and he can feel their pain. He consumes it like a wildfire and it fuels his urgency.
He dances for the young, the elderly, and everyone in between. He dances for yesterday, today, and a better tomorrow. He dances for the abused, beaten and broken. He dances for pain, sorrow and grief. He dances for love, faith and devotion. He dances for the earth and sky. He dances for unity. He dances for you.
The beat of the drum starts to build and the singers voices soar. Excitement fills the air as if something big is about to happen.
Then just as quickly the dance is over and the young man is standing there with his head down. Praying for it all to be real somehow. Praying for rain to wash away our troubles. Praying for creation. Praying for direction. Praying……
His eyes open with a sense of renewed vision and a greater sense of purpose. He is overcome with emotion and he lifts his head and sees all the faces in the crowd, awed as if they had just witnessed some kind of miracle.
The silence is broken by a little boy in a grass dance outfit that walks up to the man, takes his hand and walks him off the floor. The crowd begins to cheer, and sing, and laugh and cry because they don’t know what else to do. They start to ask themselves one by one where do we go from here? How do we start to heal these wounds that have festered far too long?
Sometimes when I go to a Pow-wow I can see him dancing. Perhaps he isn’t real. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking that everything could somehow get better. But who knows, maybe other people see him dancing as well……..
By Chad Hiatt Chippewa Cree/Kootenai