It only took about 30 minutes to turn the courtyard at the Federal Building in downtown Kansas City, Mo., into a celebration of Native Americans on Thursday morning.
A teepee was assembled by students from the Haskell Indian Junior College and soon the courtyard was filed with a drum's dance beat and the sounds of traditional native songs.
The event was in commemoration of the "Year of the American Indian," which was proclaimed by President George Bush last January and echoed by both Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Joseph Steineger and Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Emmanuel Cleaver.
Sponsor of the gathering was the Federal Aviation Administration, and more than 150 federal employees attended the event, which has been held three years now.
"EVERY OTHER ethnic or cultural group has a day for celebration," said Carole Orr, member of the organizing committee. "Traditionally, September has been the month for the American Indian and this year is especially important. We wanted a chance to share our culture." Orr is half Sioux and was raised on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.
Booths were set up from which Native American jewelry, crafts and books were sold.
"Gatherings like this bring a lot of attention to native Americans as a people," said the Rev. Julienne Judd, from the Lawrence Indian United Methodist Church in Lawrence. "It shows we have contributed a lot and that we're still here."
The Haskell Indian College singers and dancers performed their first show of the year.
"FOR SOME OF our dancers, it was their first performance ever," said Barbara Cunningham, advisor for the dancers. "We try to dispel the Hollywood myth that everyone is Sioux, or everyone is Navaho or everyone is Apache. We show the difference among the tribes by dance, dress and song."
Daniel Wildcat, department chairman of Natural and Social Sciences at Haskell Indian Junior College, explained the Columbian legacy from the Native American point of view.
"The challenge of this year is to change the perspective of history," Wildcat said. "We're taught as if history didn't begin until the Europeans arrived in the Americas. This causes a problem for the first Americans here. Even the way we talk about the anniversary of Columbus' arrival is wrong. We call it a discovery, but discovery for who? North Americans had culture here for thousands of years before Columbus arrived. Columbus didn't find us, we found him. He was lost."