ARMOUR -- The quiet beats of the drums, the Butterfly Dances by traditional Native American performers, and the suspense of learning about another culture.
More than 200 people gathered in the bleachers of the Armour High School gym Friday, eager to experience the celebration of an original powwow, titled Showing the Way, that was organized by senior student Sebastian Drapeau.
Drapeau, 18, had discussed different options for his senior project with his teachers, and had initially opted for a shop project that he would present during one of his classes. A meeting with his principal Brad Preheim led him on a different path, one that would connect him and his peers with Native American culture and tradition.
“Sebastian came into my office one day and asked to be excused for a Friday,” Preheim said. “He wanted to go drum at a powwow, so of course, I excused him. And then it hit me: what an awesome thing to do for a senior project.”
The town of Armour neighbors to communities with a high Native American population and has a significant number of indigenous students in its district.
“We have been a bit ignorant in the past when it comes to the customs and culture of our Native American students,” Preheim said. “Sebastian really liked the idea and he pulled it off. This experience was really good for our schools.”
Drapeau was able to put the project together over the course of three months with the help of Larry Blaine, who is also Native American, lives in Armour and mentored Drapeau to set up the event.
“We helped Sebastian get together the drum circles and the dancers from the Marty Indian School,” Blaine said. “And we helped with the presentation and explained all the meanings of the dances to him.”
Students of the Marty Indian School serenaded the audience beginning with the Flag and Victory song before lining up to present the first dance by the Fancy Dancers.
“The Fancy Shawl Dance signifies gracefulness and light in the Native community,” Drapeau said while explaining the meaning of the performance. “It mimics a butterfly in flight that is sprouting from its cocoon.”
Next on the program was the Traditional Dance, signifying pride and confidence, and lastly the Grass and Chicken Dance, signifying the blessing of the grass or land.
After the performances ended, Drapeau’s uncle, Glenn Drapeau, took a moment to speak to the people and thank them for welcoming the group to their school.
“We are happy that Sebastian has brought us all here together for his senior project,” Glenn Drapeau said. “This is a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience and awesome way to build relationships for our schools and communities.”
Glenn Drapeau continued explaining the importance of symbolism in the Native American culture and shared his hope that the attending students might be inspired to learn more about the endangered language spoken by the Sioux, with only around 290 fluent speakers left out of an ethnic population of almost 20,000.
At the end of the powwow, the entire crowd joined in forming a circle for the Crowd Dance, a social dance welcoming everybody and signaling unity of the people.
“My heart feels good for the people,” Blaine said. “We did this for our children, for our next generation, so they can learn and know about our ways and carry it on.”