Nuñez Community Foundation supports Native American virtual dance project with $10k donation
Nuñez Community Foundation
The Nuñez Community Foundation announces a $10,000 donation in support of a virtual Native American dance contest and performance series organized last month by California resident Tiny Rosales.
Called the Quarantine Dance Specials 2020, Rosales first started the project on her personal Facebook page on March 19 by inviting her Native American friends to post videos of themselves performing native dances dressed in their tribes’ regalia. As annual powwows were being canceled this spring and summer, Rosales wanted to provide a venue for these important cultural events, to create a sort of virtual powwow while maintaining social distancing in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. She organized a ‘woodland’ dance contest that attracted 15 contestants who uploaded videos of themselves performing in their various locations. Through her own funds and contributions from the Native American Health Center and the American Indian Cultural Center in San Francisco, cash prizes were awarded to the contestants. The two centers also distributed promotional flyers about the Facebook event, the cultural center sending them throughout the U.S. and Canada. What happened next was unexpected.
A little more than a month later, Quarantine Dance Specials 2020, which Rosales made into a public Facebook group, has exploded. As of April 30, it boasted nearly 60,000 members and nearly 3,000 posts, mostly of videos uploaded from around the United States and Canada featuring individual native dancers of all ages. Dance specials are posted featuring dancers who are celebrating milestones or honoring loved ones. Several contests have been held with prize money awarded the winners, and with the Nuñez Community Foundation’s contribution, additional youth and adult special dance contests can be organized.
“We are very Grateful for Mr. Bob Nuñez,” president of the Nuñez Community Foundation, Rosales said. Nuñez is also a Milpitas city council member and vice mayor. Rosales and her family met him in 2018 at a native flag raising event in San Jose where her children performed a dance. Nuñez has also personally donated to the Facebook native dance project. “We are thankful for his donations to help keep the people dancing,” Rosales continued. “We would like to say Chi Miigwech (thank you so much) Vice Mayor Bob Nuñez for being such a blessing to our family and doing so much great positive things for the community and youth.”
Nuñez decided to contribute funds from his foundation he said, because of the dedication he witnessed on the part of Rosales and those working with her to support their fellow Native Americans in a time of crisis. “This amazing project is providing such a valuable service to communities of Native Americans locally and around North America at a time when these communities are most vulnerable,” he said. “My congratulations to Tiny, her family and those joining with her on such a highly successful initiative that has so substantially benefitted native families in a variety of ways – socially, culturally, emotionally, and even financially.”
The dance contest winnings are a welcome financial help to Native American families struggling with unemployment as businesses have temporarily closed in keeping with stay-at-home orders aimed at mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual dances are also a way of maintaining important social, emotional and cultural ties during a time of separation and serve as a spiritual connection and release from anxieties stemming from the pandemic.
“When I am struggling with something, I go dance,” said Rosales. “This is a time when the world needs our prayers the most.” Born and raised in California, she is of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, a branch of the Ojibwe in North Dakota. She has performed her tribe’s jingle dance all of her life. Rosales realized the void left by the canceled powwows when her two-year-old son was denied his chance to perform a special initiation dance because of the pandemic.
Rosales’ friend, Dominique Lombardi, a resident of Cherry Valley in Southern California encouraged Rosales to launch the native dance video Facebook group. Lombardi is a Desert Cahuilla Indian of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and got to know Rosales through the powwows they both participate in. She told Rosales that creating and sharing dance videos on social media would benefit Native Americans during quarantine isolation by inspiring them to get up, don their regalia, and perform their cultural dances. The Facebook group project will also continue the opportunity to share Native American culture with others, Lombardi said.
Lombardi, a 2017 graduate of the University of Redlands was among the first to submit a dance video to the group. She uploaded her performance of a jingle dress dance. “I danced three or four times before submitting the video because it felt so good to dance,” she said.
Lombardi earned two bachelor’s degrees in liberal studies and in race and ethnics with an emphasis in Native American studies. She previously taught first grade in a Morongo reservation school where she encouraged students to learn their native language, history and culture. Lombardi typically participates in an average of 20 powwows a year during the summer in California and areas of the Southwest. “It does make you feel good to share the culture,” she said.
The quarantine dance videos are created by Native Americans around the United States and Canada including various parts of California and the West Coast, the Southwest, the East Coast, and Alaska, and represent hundreds of native and Indigenous tribes from North America, including the Aztecs.
“It’s our way of life and it gives them something to look forward to” while remaining at home, Rosales said. “I didn’t expect it to grow this big at all. Everyone’s helping to keep the people dancing. This is because of all of us.”
About the Nuñez Community Foundation:
The Nuñez Community Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)3 located in Milpitas, Calif. It was established in 2016-2017 by the Nuñez family. Its mission is to award scholarships to individuals who have successfully overcome adversity; to recognize their accomplishments; and to motivate them to pursue higher education. The foundation’s focus on aiding underrepresented students includes mentoring, assistance with internships and educational programs at schools.
For further information please visit https://www.nunezcommunity.org/our-impact