American Indians share their heritage Jessup program teaches tradition, history, music NORTH LAUREL/SAVAGE

April 23, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

The 600 young children sat wide-eyed as Jonathan Feather did the hoop dance.

Outfitted in a traditional American Indian costume, Mr. Feather, a Cherokee from North Carolina, deftly slipped the hoops over and around his body, then carefully positioned them until he was surrounded in a cage of hoops.

Mr. Feather's performance was part of the "American Indians and Cowboys Too" show at Green Meadows Farm in Jessup.

The show, appearing at Green Meadows through May 7, attempts to educate children about American Indian history and culture in a fun way.

"Most people growing up, the only thing they know about American Indians is what they see on TV and movies," said James Gillen, who created the program along with Ken and Debbie Keyes, who run Green Meadows Farm.

The Keyes family operates eight Green Meadows Farms throughout the country, primarily as "seasonal farm programs" for children to experience farm life.

Their farm in Maryland is on land owned by Blob's Park, the German beer and dance hall in Anne Arundel County, just over the Howard County line in Jessup.

The Keyes created the "American Indians and Cowboys Too" show as a way to expand their educational farm program, which will be at the Jessup farm May 10-21.

In addition to American Indian performers, the show includes cowboy acts, tepees and a live buffalo.

"All of our work was checked by a Hopi Indian for cultural sensitivity," Mr. Gillen said.

In addition, a professor of Indian studies at Arizona State University reviewed the contents of the program for accuracy, he said.

The show started with a brief geography lesson on the location of Indian tribes throughout the country.

While sitting on bales of hay, the children in the audience learned that Maryland was home to three Indian tribes -- the Nanticoke, the Piscataway and the Susquehanna.

According to the 1990 census, there are 2 million American Indians in the United States and 278 lands currently registered as reservations.

Ernie Sites, a folklorist and singer, entertained the children. And Johnny Lonestar, the national junior roping champion, dazzled them with his rope tricks.

Then Mr. Feather, 28, took the stage to do the hoop dance.

The dance, which he's performed all over the world, originated around the turn of the century and was based on hoop games played by Indian children.

Tony Whitecloud, a Hameus Pueblo Indian from New Mexico, choreographed the games.

Mr. Feather said the "American Indians and Cowboys Too" program is one way to destroy misconceptions about American Indians.

"It drops a lot of stereotypes when you are able to talk to a real live Native American," Mr. Feather said.

"The stereotypes that John Wayne movies built up over the years are ridiculous and they should be stopped," he said.

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