Making history.


The Warriors of AniKituhwa

Staff reports

CHEROKEE, N.C. - The Warriors of AniKituhwa, a Cherokee dance group, have been making history by recreating Cherokee dances described in 1762, including the War Dance and the Eagle Tail Dance. They are revitalizing Cherokee dance by bringing back other dances from the past, doing research and offering dance workshops for their community. In the past, they have danced at the National Museum of the American Indian, Colonial Williamsburg and at events in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.

''I'm proud of our young men who have taken the initiative to dance traditional Cherokee dances. It's assurance that our people will keep dancing and keep alive our authentic dances,'' said Marie Junaluska, tribal council member from Painttown and one of the founders of the group.

Designated as official cultural ambassadors by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the original dancers include John Grant Jr., Daniel Sonny Ledford, John Bullet Standingdeer, Bo Taylor, Daniel Tramper, Robert Tramper and Will Tuska. Their singer is Walker Calhoun, respected Cherokee elder and recipient of many awards for his role in preserving Cherokee music and dance. The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is their official sponsor. Men who have joined the group in 2005 include Ty Oocumma, David Owle and Jeremy Sequoyah.

In December 2004, they danced on the Palace Green in Colonial Williamsburg, where the last Cherokee delegation danced in 1777, and they returned there in October 2005. At that time, they participated in a re-enactment of a Cherokee delegation that presented Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia with a wampum belt in 1755. Colonial Williamsburg created a wampum belt made entirely of quahog shell, the original material, for this presentation. They also danced again on the Palace Green.

In April, the Warriors of AniKituhwa took part in the opening ceremonies at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., for the penultimate leg of the traveling exhibit describing British Soldier Lt. Henry Timberlake's visit to the Cherokees and Ostenaco's visit to England in 1762.

''Emissaries of Peace: The 1762 Cherokee and British Delegations'' was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and given special presidential recognition as a ''We the People'' exhibit. The exhibit will return home to Cherokee in 2008 for its final installation at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. For their part, the dancers will bring to life the Warrior Dance and the Eagle Tail Dance as described in Timberlake's memoirs. Timberlake witnessed these dances in the Cherokee capital of Chota, in the Overhill Towns, in the fall of 1762, and he described these dances in his memoirs, published in 1765.

The dancers began in the summer of 2003 when Junaluska asked Taylor to help recreate historic, authentic Cherokee dances. Taylor, who is the archivist at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, obtained copies of songs recorded from Will West Long in the 1920s on wax cylinders. These songs, descriptions of the dances and the survival of traditional knowledge enabled the group to recreate these dances.

The Warriors of AniKituhwa have been supported by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation and by their sponsor, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.