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Native Indian Lore
Crafts - Celts, Crafts, Native American Championships

Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2003 10:08:46 -0500
From: "Jerry Reed"

Information contact:
Phone: 315-829-8370 Fax: 315-829-8386
Mark Emery - Director of Media Relations
Jerry Reed - Senior Media Specialist
Maggie Begley - Four Directions Entertainment
Phone: 310-301-1785

One Hour Documentary Is Produced By Four Directions Entertainment, An Enterprise Of Oneida Indian Nation

Los Angeles, CA: March 21, 2003 -- The World of American Indian Dance, a one-hour documentary produced by Four Directions Entertainment, an enterprise of the  Oneida Indian Nation, will premiere on the NBC Television Network on Saturday, April 19th at 3 P.M. (EST); Noon (PT). Check local listings for exact time in your area.  The first-ever American Indian-produced documentary to air on a major television network, The World of American Indian Dance will introduce audiences to the beauty, athleticism, and competitive spirit of American Indian dance.  Actor Peter Coyote provides a stirring narration.

The Oneida Indian Nation in partnership with Sonny Skyhawk (Lakota) and Dan Jones (Ponca) formed Four Directions Entertainment, the first film and television production company ,,100 percent American Indian-owned and operated, in 2001.  According to Ray Halbritter, who as Nation Representative and CEO of the Oneida Indian Nation gave the green light to this documentary, "We are grateful to NBC's Bob Wright for the support he has shown for this project.

This program is a testament to our overall mission of recognizing and advancing the American Indian community in the field of entertainment."

Executive producer Dan Jones says,  "American Indian dance is this continent's oldest cultural tradition, with many of the country's 560 tribes and nations hosting gatherings commonly called 'powwows,' which are growing in popularity as both cultural and sporting events.  Some powwows boast attendance of more than 50,000, such as Crow Fair in Montana, where we shot over 40 hours of dance footage and interviews."

Against this historic and spectacularly beautiful backdrop, the compelling story of America's first "performance artists" is told through dance.  Throughout its history, dance has fortified and sustained American Indians.  It has also been the prism through which age-old rivalries have been played out and where such modern conflicts as progress vs. tradition; spirituality vs. commerce, and independence vs. assimilation continue to be dramatically expressed.

Traditional dance styles, developed thousands of years ago, distinguish tribes from one another and hold the key to tribal legacies.  Whether inspired by revered animals, sacred places, or belief systems, American Indian dances span the gamut of human emotion and expression.

These beautiful, energetic dances require the skill of an Olympic athlete, as powwow contestants must adhere to rigorous protocols to win championships.  Sports fans can look at these dancers as the direct descendants of America's 'original home team,' carrying on a competitive tradition that dates back many centuries.

Also explored in the documentary is the clash of traditional vs. more modern styles of dancing and the lifestyles that reflect each distinct approach.  As in any culture, young American Indians, to a certain degree, have abandoned the more traditional dance styles, preferring less restrictive, more interpretive dances including the Fancy Shawl Dance, the Jingle Dress Dance and the Men's Fancy Dance.  Many tribal elders are wary over the more flashy and secular aspects of the newer dances.  But others point to the increased attendance and participation of youth as a sign that the injection of the newer dance forms is re-invigorating the American Indian dance scene.

Producers were determined to showcase the aesthetic beauty of the dances, the colorful regalia, and the breathtaking Crow lands to the American viewing public.  For that reason, according to executive producer Sonny Skyhawk, "Four Directions selected the Panasonic Broadcast's AJ-HDC27 Varicam, variable-frame high-definition camera for primary photography for the documentary.  The uncompressed edit was done on the HDBOXX editing system from BOXX® Technologies, which supports Panasonic's AJ-HDC27 variable frame rate camera.  This format provides an extraordinary introduction to the beauties of this cultural expression."

The World of American Indian Dance is a Four Directions Entertainment production.  The program is presented by The Oneida Indian Nation.  Ray Halbritter, (Oneida), Dan Jones (Ponca) and Sonny Skyhawk (Lakota) are executive producers; Jones is producer. Four Directions Entertainment is committed to creating more opportunities for American Indians in the entertainment industry and to re-defining, through its productions, the perception of the "First Americans" on the continent.  For more information about Four Directions Entertainment, visit <>

The Oneida Indian Nation is a federally recognized Indian nation in Central New York. It is a member of the Haudenosaunee (hoe-dee-no-so-nee), known in English as the Six Nations or Iroquois Confederacy. The word Haudenosaunee means "people of the longhouse."

"A feather is down on the ground!"  The master of ceremonies called the attention of the crowd to the feather there at the yearly Standing Bear Pow Wow. The presence of it would not been noticed by anyone but the alert overseer from his position on the raised stand where he was sitting.

There was a crowd of many. They came from every part of the country and from every group of people from German to Irish or Scot.  The pause, the silence, the quiet to all at once come over the dance arena was noticed. They didn't know what it meant but they knew it had a significance. Again the m.c. spoke, "A feather is on the ground."

The minutes ticked away as if they were much longer in time. But, within a short time one of the dancers approached the stand. Now, the speaker announced a statement. "Our dancer has identified his feather and disqualifies himself."

Somewhere in our minds the meaning of it was filed away in our subconscious's. That meditation was interrupted by someone who asked. "What does it mean?"

Slowly, ever so slowly the youthful childhood memories of parents working with the children to teach them the crafts was recalled. There wasn't a way to explain in an instant what was all involved. The child learning to wrap and tie the feathers in a regalia in such a sure and strong way so that not even one feather would  fall could not be explained in one or two short sentences.

During these times of cuts for arts and crafts due to the cost and expense of it was not a time to get into a discussion of the way a warrior was trained. He first was taught the discipline of overcoming failure as far as putting together elements of the sky, earth, wind, rain and all the things important to creation. They were are tied together methodically and tightly in respect for the Greatest Craftsman who originally designed the feathers. The task was done. If it was not successfully done, it was taken apart and the work was repeated, more than once if necessary until it was correct and secure.

For all those who doubt the intricate ways of the feather go to science to learn about what goes into its design. The barbs, the shafts, the hollow stems and on and on.

These teachings of the crafts were what was the basis of unbeatable warriors such as the Celts. They turned there attention to survival through these crafts. Clothing, preparing food, housing. However, if need be they were the champions who would not be defeated. They came back again and again. In this stamina also the Native American was schooled. To drop a feather on the ground even during the heat of the dance was first of all a break into the own warriors conscience and second of all an opportunity for him to identify his well know object. In this humility he disqualified himself and honored his position to his creator in apology for letting even one small part of the Great Designers object touch the ground. After all, the feather belongs in the heavens which was a part of Wah Khan Dah's realm.

Although our lives are separate in so many ways from our ancestors and even those who set themselves up to teach are deviate in their own lives there still must be a respect for the old ones ways which was here brought to the attention of anyone who was present.

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