Lakota Sioux bring tradition to South Lake Tahoe schools |

Lakota Sioux bring tradition to South Lake Tahoe schools

Griffin Rogers
Wayne Pushetonequa (left) and Edmond Nevaquaya (right) sing during an assembly at Zephyr Cove Elementary School on Monday.
Griffin Rogers / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

If you go

What: The Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4

Where: Lake Tahoe Community College, South Lake Tahoe

Tickets: $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for youth

The repetitious thud of a buffalo hide drum pounded through the Zephyr Cove Elementary School cafeteria Monday, as five Native American performers sang and danced in customary decorative regalia.

In the audience, kids moved their heads to the contagious beat or slapped their knees in rhythm.

“Our people say the drum is the heartbeat of our people,” narrator Edmond Nevaquaya told about 150 students.

The Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre, founded in 1978 in South Dakota, performed a variety of dances during the course of the program, as Nevaquaya told a number of Lakota Indian stories passed down through several generations.

Nevaquaya said the group’s hope is that kids walk away with a better understanding of the resilient Lakota Sioux culture.

“It’s still alive,” he said after the show, “and we’re still carrying on today.”

The Lakota Dance Theatre has appeared at venues around the world including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., the Olympics and the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian.

It is visiting several South Shore schools to perform this week, and it started Monday with George Whittell High School and Zephyr Cove Elementary.

On Friday, the group will hold a public performance at Lake Tahoe Community College’s Duke Theater. Curtains will open at 7 p.m.

Tahoe Arts Project, a nonprofit organization, is presenting the event. Tickets can be purchased through the organization or from the California and Nevada Visitors Center. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for youth in high school and younger.

Fifth-grader Kyle Ford, 11, said he enjoyed several aspects of the show Monday, such as watching “the grass dance” and listening to the drum.

“I liked how they had their (regalia),” he said, “and how they designed it.”

For students, the performance is a rare, up-close glimpse into Native American culture, said Nancy Cauley, Zephyr Cove Elementary principal.

“It’s special because a lot of kids aren’t going to have that exposure,” she said.

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