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Wed, Nov. 13

Champion Hoop Dancer performs at Smoki Museum

Four-time world champion Hoop Dancer Derrick Davis performed at the Smoki Museum Saturday and Sunday during the Second Southwest Indian Arts Festival. Davis is a Hopi Indian from Old Oraibi and a member of the Greasewood Clan.

American Indian musician and singer Eldred Matt accompanied Davis as he performed the Eagle and Hoop dances.

The two men and other American Indian performers and artisans may have drawn the crowds to the event, but one important aspect of the arts festival happened off the show stage.

The children's craft area inside one of the display buildings provided children of all ages "hands-on" opportunity to try a pump drill, grind corn with a metate and mano, try loom beading, recreate toy figures using pipe cleaners, make twine and corn husks dolls.

Smoki Museum volunteer Susan Jo Austin said the craft area is normally inside the museum and is a "wonderful way to experience how native people and children did things with today's technology. I tell the children that the pump drill is how Native Americans made holes in beads and shells without dad's power drills."

Austin said the children love working with the tools and often work for hours.

Gary Baumert is the educational chairman at the museum. He said it is important to learn about the American Indian culture.

Baumert said the U.S. government tried to erase American Indian culture in the 1880s and 1890s with the introduction of government and church schools. He said the federal government declared it illegal for American Indians to perform their traditional dances and ceremonies.

He said the goal was to eliminate the native language.

"Once you lose the language, you lose the biggest part of the culture. With children I try to give them some background about how things were done, In some cases, the tools they are using are the same type that were used 1,000 years ago," he said

Baumert said white businessmen formed the Smoki in an attempt to save the Prescott rodeo.

"In 1921, the rodeo was broke. The Smoki began with clowns, cowboys and Indians, and white men performing the Snake Dance with bull snakes in their mouths," Baumert said.

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