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NCAI Culture Night combines the traditional and contemporary

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DENVER - Rock 'n' roll and Round Dance resounded simultaneously in a mid-week cultural celebration at the 64th National Congress of American Indians Convention in the Colorado Convention Center.

Hard-driving guitar by a contemporary artist in one area was countered by the throbbing drumbeat of pow wow songs in another.

''We have the traditional, and then we have the contemporary,'' said Ben Sherman, president of the Western American Indian Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of the NCAI Local Planning Committee. ''We think that's appropriate.''

Among the NCAI Culture Night performances was the traditional Ute Bear Dance, hosted by the Southern Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Northern Ute Tribes of Colorado and Utah.

The dramatic back-and-forth of the Bear Dance took place in a large ballroom packed with spectators and dancers in the bright regalia of both Northern and Southern traditions, while in an adjoining room

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contemporary music and humor held sway.

Jim Ruel, an Ojibwe comedian, pleased the crowd with some droll political observations, among them the contention that the United States was about to return the Black Hills to the Lakota and Cheyenne ''as soon as the Crazy Horse monument is finished.'' He is a member of the all-Native Powwow Comedy Jam.

NCAI Culture Night's featured entertainer, Mato Nanji of Indigenous, took the stage at 9 p.m. and dazzled the attendees with a laid-back stage presence that contrasted sharply with his powerful blues-rock.

Nanji displayed virtuoso guitar work, melding traditional hard-hitting blues with seemingly-effortless improvisation, to loud applause from the spectators.

A fall fashion show was conducted by five Native designers and 20 Native models, highlighting creations derived from cultures that range from the Navajo to the Seneca, among others. An American Indian art show featured the work of award-winning artists in jewelry and various graphic media.