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Celebrating Native American Culture

By Erny Zah The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Jeremiah Nashio, 17, an Apache Crown Dancer, looked to the north and saw a dark purple cloud.

"We're going to try to bring that (rain) by this evening," he said, while looking at the rain cloud.

The cloud eventually covered the spectators, vendors and performers the annual Farmington Indian Center Market that was held at Berg Park on Saturday and Sunday.

The event featured more 10 Native American artisans, who sold jewelry, drums, paintings and photographs. In addition to the art, about 15 Native American groups performed everything from traditional dances and songs to contemporary country and western music.

More than 1,500 people attended the event over two days, said Edward Smiley, director of the Farmington Intertribal Indian Center.

The White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers were from White River, Ariz. and were primarily members of the White Mountain Apache Nation.

There were six crown dancers that transformed the sidewalk into a stage, while spectators sat under trees and on the grass.

The Apache Crown Dance isn't necessarily a "rain dance" per say, but the dance has healing qualities, said Joe Tohonnie Jr., the group's leader.

The dancers painted their bodies with black paint and wore black masks. Each were adorned with crowns that were made from cut pieces of wood.

"I'm keeping my tradition alive (by dancing)," said Harrison Watts, 18, of White River, Ariz., one of the dancers.

He said while he dances, he prays and thinks about his family. Particularly, he thinks about his cousin that has been in a coma for over a year.

"I give my blessings to her," he said.

Tohonnie, who sang for the dancers, said he has been singing since he was six years old and was self taught when it came to learning the songs.

He said that his singing ability was a gift that he contributes to his Apache grandfather, who was a medicine man.

"They always, always, always put on a good show," said Jo Lieba-Jack, 35, of Shiprock.

She said she was at the festival both days and enjoyed all the performers who shared their singing and dancing.

"It's awesome," she said.

The singing and dancing was just one aspect of the weekend, Smiley said.

"The main promotion of the show was for the arts and crafts vendors. It's kind of hard for them to sell on a daily basis," he said.

Gloria Cooeyate, a Cochiti Pueblo, came to the fair and said the business was "good" this past weekend. So good that she plans on returning next year and plans to recommend the fair to other Native American artisans.

Her and her husband, Marcus Chalam, sold drums and jewelry and expressed their appreciation for the organizers.

Chalam said he liked the different tribal ethnicities of the performers.

Some of the performances included an Eagle Dance by dancers and singers from Laguna, some dances from Zuni, a teen hoop dancer, a short gourd dance session, Native American Music Award winner Radmilla Cody, Lil' Dre, Desert Sun and others.

Smiley said next year he hopes to add other tribal dances to the mix of dancers.

"Every year there are different tribal dancers," he said.

Nashio said he was happy to share some an aspect of his Apache tradition to people.

"I want to show them what we got back at home," he said.


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