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Youngest Yakama Warrior wins world championship

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VANCOUVER, Wash. - In many ways Koda Wataka Robinson is older than his scant 6 years. Proud and more passionate about dancing than anything else in his busy young life, he is already a national traditional champion dancer in his age group.

Actually, he's younger than his age group of 7 to 12- year-olds. But you'd never know it. Selected as the youngest Yakama Warrior ever to represent the eastern Washington nation last summer, Koda regularly dances with the men at the many pow wows he attends. His parents say he only engages his own age group out of necessity in competition.

"He doesn't talk with the kids," says his mother, Nanette Robinson, a member of the Yakama Nation. "He hangs out and talks with the adults. And they accept him. He just wants to learn so much."

Proud father, Billy Robinson, says Koda even gets invited into the spiritual dances with the men.

"At the pow wow convention center in Portland about three weeks ago ... they invited Koda out into the middle to dance," says Billy, who is half Cherokee. "My wife was crying and I was in tears. It was just so moving to see this little kid ... screaming and dancing and screaming and dancing.

"Afterward the men came over and said 'Thank you for letting him dance. He can dance with us anytime.'"

Named Un-Mee-Mah-kee-loosh or Winterhawk by his father, Koda also drums with the men and sings.

Unlike some fathers on the pow wow circuit, Billy says he never taught his son any dances and never pushed him to dance.

But at 1, Koda was transfixed by the dancing at the many pow wows he attended with his family, year round. By 2, he was dancing. At 3, he had his own regalia and could be found watching and imitating his father, uncles and other men in all the dances.

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"My grandma told me not to cut my hair and that I should dance," says Koda with great seriousness. "She watches out for me."

At the September world championship in Ledyard, Conn., Koda won over a field of about 18 youngsters. His extraordinary ability, combined with the points he amassed over the year in intertribal, grand entry and competition dances, put him far ahead of the other entrants.

"Koda won't miss a dance," Billy says. "Even if it's late at night, he'll just stay there. He'll go to sleep up in the bleachers. He doesn't want to leave.

"A couple of other kids were really good. But they missed some of the Grand Entries. And you have to be out there. If you're not in it, you can't win it."

One of Koda's best friends, co-owner of Native American Legacy in Centralia, Wash., says she has never seen anybody, young or old, dance with as much pride as Koda. His most loyal friend and fan, Ravenhawk says she was upset to miss his championship performance - the only pow wow of his she missed all season.

"But he called me and goes, 'Ravenhawk, I know exactly how Tiger Woods felt because when I won I went straight to my room and kissed my trophy.'"

Despite his unusual focus and abilities, his parents hasten to say that Koda is just a typical 6-year-old boy. A first grader at St. Joseph's Catholic school in Vancouver where his mom works as parish secretary, he is on the swim team and loves to play all the typical school sports such as soccer and baseball.

He also shoots a recurve bow along with his ex-Green Beret dad, who was a Washington State Archery Champion last year. Oh yes, he also drums with the Bow and Arrow Cultural Club at Portland State, speaks Japanese and just won his orange belt in karate.

"He is way beyond his years," Ravenhawk says. "He's a go-getter. I mean you can be clear across the pow wow grounds and he'll say 'Ravenhawk listen, it's a Crow Hop!' He just tunes in. He knows every song. And the look in his eyes ... . It's just like having one of your ancestors, come and grab you."