Healing through dance

Eugene and Erin Tapahe join the show to talk to us more about the Jingle Dress project and how they took the healing power of the jingle dress and dance to the land.
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According to the CDC, 482,536 deaths have been the direct result of COVID-19. Many have lost loved one’s, friends and even family members.  Even through this trying time, many have found hope and turned something bad into something healing. Award-winning Navajo photographer Eugene Tapahe, created the Jingle Dress project. The goal is simple - to take the healing power of the jingle dress and dance to the land. They travel to spiritual places where their ancestors once walked and take pictures and video to promote healing.  He travels with four Diné dancers Erin Tapahe, Dion Tapahe, Sunni Begay and JoAnni Begay.

Eugene and one of the dancers joins us today, his daughter Erin Tapahe.

A slice of our Indigenous world

  • A judge is denying an Apache group’s request for an injunction to halt the destruction of sacred land in Arizona.
  • The Lower Sioux Community is celebrating the return of ancestral land with great historical significance.
  • Last week Representative Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren was sworn in at the Arizona state capitol.
  • A student in Wisconsin creates a video game to teach and preserve Ojibwe traditions. 
  • When a Native American activist tipped over a Christopher Columbus statue in front of the Minnesota state capitol last summer, prosecutors faced a dilemma. 

You'll find more details on these stories at the top of today's newscast.

Some quotes from today's show.

Eugene Tapahe:

"We appreciate this time to be able to be here to talk about our project. The project actually started in May of last year when the pandemic really started taking off as far as the loss of the people, especially on the Navajo reservation when it was started to get really dominant there. In May my aunt, my mom's sister actually passed away from COVID. And at that time as an artist, I do my work. I'm a full-time artist as a photographer."

"And so by that time, all of the shows for the whole year were canceled. And so how I make my living and then having the pandemic personally affect our family really made it really hard for us to decide, what our future was going to be during this pandemic. It was a really great time, but at the same time, it was very depressing because we were going through a lot of hardship. And when we actually realized how much the pandemic affected Native people personally."

"We realized that there were a lot more people going through what we went through with my aunt. In one sense, when my aunt passed away, we couldn't bury her within the traditional Navajo way of being able to celebrate her life. And then also burying her within four days. And not only that, because the pandemic was so early, the regulations of burial, they were burying all the people who contracted the virus. They were all burying them in the same location at the grave sites. So we couldn't even bury our aunt in our family plot."

Erin Tapahe:
"That first feeling, it was kind of, it was awkward, but then also like, because we're Jingle dress dancers. And so it felt really weird to be dancing, like, to be like in the dresses, but then to be taking photos in them. But then when we danced, it felt really like exhilarating, but then also like really powerful cause me and my sister, the day before we ran a marathon and we were really worried that our feet and our bodies weren't going to be able to keep us dancing the whole song, but then as we were dancing."

"I felt that like my body was healing and it was just a really great time. And there was this feeling of like, this is what we're supposed to do. This is where we're meant to be in this moment in time. So it was really special. It means a lot, so I've been dancing for a few years now. And then I think with the, doing it for the healing purpose and doing it, knowing my my granddad had passed away from COVID and, and it just had a lot more meaning and that had a lot more I guess, a personal connection with that. And so it was definitely a very unique and very special experience. It was definitely different than the previous  times I've danced before. "

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix.

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