Heaven Pahsetopah coached the crowd.

“Can everybody say, ‘Osiyo,’” she said. “That means ‘Hello’ in Cherokee. Can everybody say, ‘Howa.’ That means ‘Hello’ in Osage.”

She is the fancy shawl dancer for Dancing Eagles, a world-renowned Native American dance group.

She performed a 30-minute program, along with her father, Mike, at the Dancing Turtle Interactive Celebration of the Arts on Friday.

Although it was 90 degrees and most people were gathered in the shade, the dancers did not let the heat keep them from enjoying themselves.

“I’d like to do a dance in the shade though … today it’s hot,” Mike said. “If you see me moving fast, it’s because my moccasins are heating up.”

Mike has been dancing since he was three years old. He is known as an international Indian Fancy Dance performer and featured dancer of Discoveryland.

He performed the fancy dance, a fast-paced routine that is performed year-round, and an old-style fancy dance, which originated in the Buffalo Bill Wild West shows.

He also played both the “drone,” or large cedar flute, and small flute, with tunes resembling the calls of birds in nature.

“Our people noticed that watching nature, they could look to the skies and they could see the four seasons,” Mike said. “And they watched the trees bloom, the grass grow and the rivers flow … they noticed that those birds had songs. The whistle was always a part of our culture but they found out that by putting those holes on the top of that wooden flute, that they could make songs closest to what the birds have.”

Heaven performed a “fancy shawl” dance, using a brightly-colored shawl with prairie grass, beads and floral designs – and the “eagle dance.”

During the presentation, Mike explained Native American styles of sign language across the nation, featured in a book he’s recently written called “Talking With Hands.” However, this is not his first time releasing work about sign language.

He has also done work for the television series “Into the Wild Frontier.” For the series, he assists the crew with the local Natives by sending the crew the video recordings of himself teaching hand talk.

Since graduating high school, he has been a local cultural educator, informing schools, libraries and the general public of the different Native American dance styles and art. He has presented 6,448 cultural programs, and he hopes to reach 7,000.

Eventually, he formed a troop of his own. His first troop consisted of his father and two oldest children. Once he married his wife Lisa, he added her and their daughter to the group, as well.

The Pahsetopah family is dedicated to their culture and their work. The family makes all of their own traditional clothing, compete in local and state-wide powwows and present their educational programs.

Mike said Heaven has been dancing since she could walk. Now, she has become a champion dancer like her father.

The pair ended the program with the “snake dance” and invited Stillwater residents to join them.

“It’s much like follow the leader,” he said. “It may differ from tribe to tribe, but this is the one I use when I go into the schools.”

When Native American scouts would search for land, they would look for hills, trees, rivers, streams – fertile spots where they would set up their encampments and villages for a time. They performed the snake dance to pack the grass down and make a spot for themselves.

“When the grass was tall, they came together as a nation, as a people, as one and they would follow this process,” Mike said.

Mike plans to educate and dance for as long as he can. His passion for dancing is shown through each step he takes.

“I don’t heal as fast as I used to, but I always find a way to get back out there,” he said. “When it comes time, I can still talk and I can still tell stories about these dances, play the flute and explain everything. I’ve been able to retain history and the meaning of these dances and at the same time serve as a pioneer.”


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