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Shirley Sneve
Indian Country Today

One hundred dancers from the U.S. and Canada competed in the 32nd Annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. In spite of the 90 degree temperature, audiences were excited to be back, after last year’s virtual competition.

“I dance for everyone that wants to dance and everyone that can't dance and always for the ones before us, and all of our ancestors — the ones who fought to keep our traditions alive for us to be able to share this with everybody,” said Sampson Sixkiller Sinquah, Gila River Pima, Hopi-Tewa, Cherokee, who took top honors in the Adult category.

The Heard Museum’s website features the history of the dance:

“The art of hoop dance honors cultural traditions shared by multiple Indigenous communities. With roots in healing ceremonies, traditions and practices, today hoop dance is shared as an artistic expression to celebrate and honor Indigenous traditions throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Watch: Hoop dance championship highlights

Over the years, as the hoop dance community has grown, dancers have incorporated new and creative designs and intricate footwork while still respecting the fundamentals of the form. Each dancer presents their own choreography, weaving in aspects of tradition and culture. Men and women compete on an equal field, and individual routines may feature as few as four to as many as 50 hoops, which are manipulated to create a variety of designs such as animals, insects and globes.

Traditional hoops were made from the wood of a willow tree. Modern-day hoops are often made from reed and plastic hose because of the durability of the material when traveling. The hoops are decorated with tape and paint to symbolize the changing colors of each season. The traditional wooden hoops are still used on rare occasions.”

“This is a great year. This is the most dancers we've ever had--100 hoop dancers. We had up to 94 about four years ago,” said Dennis Bowen Sr., Seneca, who has been the master of ceremonies since 1992. “For what they get to witness, this is world class, and they're excited. A lot of our hoop dance fans are senior citizens. And, uh, so they come year after year, some are snowbirds and they've been here many years. They have their favorite dancer that they saw dance 15 years ago. And if don't come that year, they'll come up and say, ‘are they here?’ It's a great family, the hoop dance fans, our hoop dancers and their singers.”

The Heard Museum in Phoenix hosted its 32nd annual World Championship Hoop Dance on March 26-27, 2022. Derrick Davis competes. (Photo by Shirley Sneve, Indian Country Today)
The Heard Museum in Phoenix hosted its 32nd annual World Championship Hoop Dance on March 26-27, 2022. Beany John competes. (Photo by Shirley Sneve, Indian Country Today)

Bowen explains that the hoop dance is a family tradition, “Some of our senior dancers, they danced as tiny tots. This is the 32nd year. And so, we see that progression. It's great.”

Derrick Suwaima Davis, Hopi, Choctaw, is one of those dancers. This is the first time he’s danced in the Senior Division (over age 40), but he’s been a world champion seven times — first in 1994.

“Mainly it was just the art form of being able to convey a messages of balance, comfort, something that we all seek for safety. So the storytelling and the dance, and then the audience appreciating that reminder through the cultural singing and dancing,” Davis said.

The storytelling aspect is important to Beany John, Kehewin Cree Nation, who took second in the Adult category. She was the only female in the top six competitors.

“It’s predominantly men, but I knew that this was the dance that was for me. And it's a storytelling, healing dance, and it really encapsulated everything that I was feeling at a young age and allowed me to express everything through hoop dancing,” John said.

Shade-Phea Young, Navajo, Ohkay Owingeh, Hopi, took the trophy in the teen division. She attends the Santa Fe Indian School. Her participation in athletics helps prepare her for the hoop dance.

“We competed in the New Mexico state finals for basketball, and we got second place for that. And then I also competed in state for volleyball as well, fell short. And now I'm doing softball,” Young said.

Complete list of 2022 winners:

Adult World Champion
Sampson Sixkiller Sinquah (Gila River Pima/ Hopi-Tewa/ Cherokee)
First Runner Up: Beany John (Plains Cree and Taino)
Second Runner Up: Talon Duncan (San Carlos Apache, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation)
Third Runner Up: Tony Duncan (San Carlos Apache, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation)
Scott Sixkiller Sinquah (Gila River Pima/ Hopi-Tewa/ Cherokee/ Choctaw)
Fifth Runner Up: Joseph Secody (Diné)

Senior Champion
Derrick Suwaima Davis (Hopi/Choctaw)
First Runner Up: Terry Goedel (Yakama/Tulalip)
Second Runner Up: Dallas Arcand (Cree, Nakota Sioux, Metis)

Teen Champion
Shadé Phea Young (Hopi, Tewa, Navajo, Assiniboine)
First Runner Up: Mitchell Shonkwaiataroroks Gray (Mohawk)
Second Runner Up: Joseph Romero (Pueblo of Pojoaque/Nambe Pueblo)

Youth Champion
Jai’po Harvier (Pueblo of Pojaoque, Santa Clara Pueblo, Taos Pueblo, Tohono O’odham Nation)
First Runner Up: Mateo Ulibarri (Pueblo of Pojoaque)
Second Runner Up: Naiche Duncan (San Carlos Apache, MHA Nations, Plains Cree, Taino)

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ICT's Max Montour contributed to this report. 

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