Texas Scouts will perform Indian dances

June 14, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

When Brad Fansler first donned a feathered headpiece seven years ago and danced the same steps that generations of Native Americans had done before him, he felt a little awkward.

"I was just a white boy in a costume," recalled the 17-year-old Amarillo, Texas, resident. "But then a Sioux chief told me that if it's in your heart, you're considered Indian. It made me feel really special."

Brad has been moving to the beat of ancient Native American dances since he became a member of the Kwahadi Indian Dancers, who will appear at 7: 30 p.m. Tuesday at Glen Burnie High School.

The dancers are part of Boy Scout Explorer Post 80, an Amarillo group that was invited for the second year in a row by Cub Scout Pack 346. Joanne M. Heath, cub master for the Pasadena group, said she invited the dancers again because of their popularity.

"Everybody who saw them last year was very impressed," Heath said, adding that she has already sold 1,160 of the 1,200 tickets for the event. "It was a professional-quality performance."

The Boy Scouts from Amarillo have been performing the ancient tribal dances of several Native American tribes for 52 years, said Charles Ritchie, the Explorer post's adviser for 31 years. The tradition started in 1944 when Boy Scout Troop 9 performed a dance at an annual Scouting contest.

Other groups that saw the dance asked the troop to perform at other functions, and word spread, Ritchie said.

The troop eventually became a part of the Explorer post, and Ritchie, 48, has been fielding requests for the dancers ever since.

"The phones are still ringing," he said. "We still haven't caught up."

Ritchie said the group has learned from tribes ranging from the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico to the Yaqui Indians of Arizona. The Native Americans have taught the boys how to design intricate costumes, make porcupine quill quilts and perform the dances that re-enact battles between the forces of good and evil or praise spiritual beings.

The Sioux Hoop Dance describes the peaks and valleys of mortal life, and encourages humans to persevere. The Pueblo Buffalo Dance celebrates the harvest of crops and food, while the Pueblo Dance of Peace Belts emphasizes the link between all human beings, Ritchie said.

Many of the boys who perform the dance said when they put on the costumes, they have a newfound respect for Native Americans.

"When I put on the costume, I feel like I'm part of the tribe," said 17-year-old Landon Morris. "There's a pride that goes along with it."

Ritchie estimates the Explorer post has performed more than 3,000 shows for more than 1 million people, and he sees no reason why it should stop.

Ritchie said, "It's become like our own heritage that is passed down from one generation to another."

Pub Date: 6/14/96

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