This week’s WYSIWYG in the PUB multipurpose room featured examples of Native American culture via an entertaining and educational presentation by Reuben and Ash Fast Horse. The couple kept the audience enthralled with surprisingly intimate moments, such as a tender kiss following a love song on flute by Reuben Fast Horse, or the stately and graceful women’s traditional dance performed by Ash Fast Horse.
In contrast Reuben Fast Horse treated observers to the lively “Eagle Dance” and the “Buffalo Dance,” while wearing traditional costume or “regalia.” Speaking of the dancing Reuben Fast Horse said “Native American dance and music are widely misinterpreted and misunderstood forms of expression. These songs and dances are very important to our culture because they remind us of who we are and connect us back to our Creation story. The Buffalo and Eagle dances are not just for a certain few, they are for all.”
This attitude of inclusion permeated the message Reuben Fast Horse had for those in attendance, stressing the ways in which we are the same, verses the ways in which we are different. Fast Horse queried the audience about their own Native connections to heritages openly admitted to, or even sadly hidden, for reasons of cultural persecution or social shame at the time. A large number of hands went up in response, though at a glance one would not have guessed minus the stereotype black braids, dark skin, and almond eyes.
He pointed out that Native Americans are a modern people now, and that our idea of what “Indian” is or what it looks like comes from a mix of historical images and ongoing romanticism. Fast Horse went on to point out how many ways we are touched by Native American culture during every day life. The names of places we go like Chicago, foods we eat like corn, even Native styles incorporated into prominentfashion are, at the least, copies of the real thing when we see beaded purses and belts or hair barrettes.
Fast Horse referred to the tribal ancestries of many different cultures reciting long lists of examples including African and Scottish alike. In addition special attention was given to the explanation of the matriarchal influence in his and other tribes. A special part of the presentation was dedicated to the honor of women. Fast Horse sang in traditional style, accompanied by drum.
Both Reuben and Ash Fast Horse are accomplished dancers and as musicians have performed at the prestigious WOMAD World Music Festival, most recently in 1999 in Adelaide, South Australia. The couple has also done exclusive performances for the National Park System in South Australia working extensively on the grass roots level with the aboriginal schools through the South Australia Arts Council.
The show ended in a question and answer session given to satisfying inquiring minds. One memberof the audience asked about the significance of the regalia Reuben Fast Horse wore. His answer incorporated a little history, a little geography, and some economics as well before completed.
Despite the high entertainment value of the evening it would have been hard not to learnsomething. Though framed in humor and delivered in eloquent style, one theme camethrough, “we are still here, we are not some beaded moccasins in a museum, we are alive,”said Reuben Fast Horse. “We love sharing this information and perspective with everyone because we all benefit from the knowledge and practices of the First Nations.”
Ash Fast Horse stressed “we really try to push unity between cultures. There are too manypeople out there promoting division. You know what, we’re human first. We shouldn’t evenbe thinking about skin color or religion, it just keeps people separated.”
The audience was not only cross-cultural, but on this night, cross-generational. Among the many was a local Indian boy, Taulbee Nicola, out late for the event on the occasion of his 5th birthday. There to experience examples of his culture, he sat just a few chairs away from Margaret Horchler, transplanted from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania in 1970. Horchler proudlyannounced she will be ninety-two next month and both attends class occasionally and participates in events like WYSIWYG at EWU. “This truly makes me want to go to the library and learnmore about the Indians,” said Horchler. “You have to keep your mind open and keep learning.Always keep learning,” she said.