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Native Pride Dancers, Josh Atcheynum and Sheena Cain, traveled to Yankton, SD and performed at 3 schools within the Yankton School district via BOL tours. Thank you, Josh and Sheena! Your hard pays off and unites the cultures! We are honored to work with both of you! 

 

Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan: Students Introduced to Native American Culture, History Thru Dance Sept. 30, 2017

Posted: Wednesday, September 20, 2017 10:39 pm |Updated: 9:30 pm, Thu Sep 21, 2017.

It’s important for indigenous people to keep their culture and heritage alive, which is what Josh Atcheynum has spent the better part of a year doing.

A member of the Plains Cree Tribe from Saskatchewan, Canada, Atcheynum has been with the Native Pride Dancers for one year. During this time, he has traveled with his fiancée and fellow dancer, Sheena Cain, all over the world, from Moldavia to France to Spain, all well as all across the United States.

They performed at Yankton’s Beadle and Stewart Elementary schools Wednesday and will perform at Webster Elementary today (Thursday) at 9 a.m.

Atcheynum had been dancing for 25 years prior to joining Native Pride Dancers. He became a member after Cain, who has been with the company for seven years, encouraged him to join.

He hasn’t regretted it, he said.

"It’s been an amazing journey to teach and dance and do something I enjoy," he said. "It doesn’t feel like work."

In addition to dancing for the company, Atcheynum also works on production, editing videos and doing graphics. However, he primarily performs in front of crowds to not only dance, but also teach them about Native American culture.

His best learning tool is his regalia, which consist of a buffalo headdress that has been in his family for seven generations, and eagle feathers, one for each story of a battle he knows by heart.

There are 25,000 members of the Plains Cree Tribe, of which Atcheynum is one of four people who has the right to wear the buffalo headdress. The other three people are his father and brothers.

"My family has been generations of keepers of this headdress, and the knowledge that the buffalo has," he explained to Stewart students at their assembly. "Buffaloes and eagles are the two most high-praised animals that members of my tribe look up to and pray with."

The rest of his outfit, which consists of bells and traditional leather work, weighs 47 pounds, he said.

"It’s a good workout," he remarked, rolling up his sleeve to show the students the Fitbit on his wrist.

He and Cain show the differences between Native American male and female dances. While the men are aggressive in their movements, women are lighter on their feet due to their showing of respect to Mother Earth, as women are mothers themselves, Atcheynum explained.

"Traditional dancers were the ones that were keepers of a lot of stories, and we told them when we danced," he said. "Our stories are passed on orally because it was said if we were to write down our dances and what they meant, it was no longer yours. Somebody could take that story and claim it as their own because then they’d have that piece of paper you wrote on."

By telling these stories the way they’re intended, it not only keeps the Native American culture alive, but also educates people unfamiliar with it, he said.

"A lot of our stories as Native American people are not told in school systems," Atcheynum said. "It’s very important to know the history of the first peoples of any land, and any current events as well."

When he performs for high schools and college-aged students, he touches on topics of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the high number of missing/murdered aboriginal women, the latter of which isn’t given attention by the mainstream media.

"It’s an important thing we’re doing simply by doing our part by keeping who we are as the first people, and our culture, alive," he said.

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