Native Tribes Gift Dance, Stories, and Traditions to the University

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Crow Dance

Sheldon Raymore performs the Crow Dance.

In the University’s first-ever celebration of Native American History Month, the Office of Multicultural Affairs invited tribes from around the nation to share their heritage with the neighborhood and the Fordham community.

Among the many performers were the SilverCloud Singers, who brought drums and ancient chants to the McGinley Center on the Rose Hill campus. Tribes from as far away as the Dakotas and as close to home as Long Island were represented. Young dancers, like Kodiak Tarrant and his sister Suki, shared dances from their Shinnecock/Hopi/Ho-Chunk tribe in Southampton, New York. And Sheldon Raymore brought stories and dances from the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe.

In introducing his dances, his stories, and his regalia to the crowd, Raymore described how each tradition was “gifted” to him. In each introduction, he credited a specific person. After the performance, as he walked across Edwards Parade to have his photo taken, he explained why.

Kodiak Tarrant dances.

Kodiak Tarrant

“In our culture, everything is a give and a take. We don’t just cut down a tree without purpose, or without making an offering in its place,” he said. “It’s always an exchange of energy or a blessing. That’s what we as a people do.”

Host and emcee Bobby Gonzalez, a Bronx-based community organizer, said most of the dancers that came to Fordham had volunteered to share their culture. It was in that same spirit that Raymore gifted a story, “How the Crow Became Black,” to all those gathered.

“It’s a story that reminds us not to judge each other, that we each have a gift that was given to us by our Creator, and that we’re here to share that gift with each other.”

How the Crow Became Black

A long time ago, Mother Earth’s shawl was covered in snow, so much snow that the animals were freezing. The animals held a grand council to decide [who]should visit the Great Spirit [to ask for help].

Rainbow Crow was the most beautiful of all the winged birds. His feathers had many colors, some not even from this world. Those colors don’t exist anymore. And Rainbow Crow had the most beautiful singing voice out of all the winged birds. And so, Rainbow Crow was chosen.

Suki Tarrant

Suki Tarrant

He flew to Great Spirit to ask for the snow to stop. Rainbow Crow flew past Mother Earth, past Grandmother Moon, past Grandfather Sun, finally reaching Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka. To catch the attention of Great Spirit, Rainbow Crow sang the most beautiful songs, and he caught the attention of Creator.

Creator asked Rainbow Crow, “What can I give you for this gift of that beautiful song?” Rainbow Crow said “Everyone is freezing on earth, can you make it stop?”

But once Creator thinks about something it cannot be unthought—that’s the power of thought.

So, he told Rainbow Crow, “I’ll give you this gift of fire.” Creator stuck a torch into the sun and gave it to Rainbow Crow. But being a winged bird, the only way he could carry this gift of fire was in his beak. Rainbow Crow flew back as fast as possible, past Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon, finally reaching Mother Earth. When Rainbow Crow put that fire down, all the animals of earth rejoiced. They were dancing and they were excited because life would go on.

But, for Rainbow Crow, his once beautiful feathers had been scorched black from carrying the the fire back to earth. And the beautiful singing voice that he once had was gone. It sounded like what you hear from the crows just outside: “Craw! Craw!”

Creator noticed that Rainbow Crow was sad and he said to Rainbow Crow, “Do not be sad. When grandfather sun shines his light upon you, you will see the colors of the coat you once had.” That is why when you look at a crow today they have an iridescent color to their feathers. Creator then said, “Rainbow Crow I will make it so that when the humans come they won’t hunt you because I’ll make your meat taste like burned flesh. And they won’t cage you for your beautiful singing voice.”

That was enough for Rainbow Crow. And that is how the crow became black.

Friendship Dance

The Friendship Dance

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