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American Indian woman dances ‘to keep our traditions alive’ at festival

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, July 12, 2014, at 5:52 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, July 13, 2014, at 8:25 a.m.

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If you go

The American Indian Festival, an event of the Mid-America All-Indian Center, continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Expo Hall at Century II.

Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for ages 55 or older and active military members and $3 for ages 6 to 16. Children younger than 6 get in free.

The festival features fine art, jewelry, dancing and food such as Indian tacos and meat pies.

Makayla Sage has spent about $3,000 on the brightly beaded and finely detailed deerskin regalia she wears at festivals and powwows across the country.

She showed it off Saturday at the Mid-America All-Indian Center’s American Indian Festival at Century II.

Sage is a buckskin dancer from Ponca City, Okla. She has been dancing her whole life and has competed the past three years at the Wichita festival, sharing her culture and heritage.

“A lady made it for me,” she said of her costume. “It takes about a year to make one.”

Sage picked out the skin and the beading. Like other dancers, she adds to her costume as time and money allow. She dances almost every weekend at “countless festivals,” she said.

Sage is Comanche, Otoe, Osage, Cheyenne and Arapaho.

She dances, she said, “to keep our traditions alive.”

So did dozens of other dancers Saturday who performed to native music in the Expo Hall at Century II.

J. Thorpe Sine, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, participated in Wichita’s festival for the first time this weekend. Like Sage, he travels to festivals and powwows through the summer.

He lives in Tulsa but is originally from Wisconsin.

Taking a break from dancing, he talked about what he liked about the Wichita festival.

“I like being indoors,” he said with a smile. “The crowd participation is really neat.”

Regalia is heavy, and outdoor festivals and powwows can be “unbearable,” Sage said.

Audience members were invited to come into the dance circle at special times. Two little girls in street clothes tried their hand at dancing to the drumbeats, mostly shaking their rear ends across the stage.

Sage says dancers are judged on “how you stay on beat and your down beats.”

Dancing is competitive, Sage said.

“Sometimes we put music on in our living room and just dance” to practice, she said.

Wichita resident Peggy Cheney came to the festival for the second year.

“I like the dancing,” she said. “It just gives me chills.”

A neighbor of hers who is American Indian invited her to attend, she said. Cheney said the costumes are beautiful.

“I just love the shawls,” she said.

Cheney said she likely would come back after church on Sunday, when the festival continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SGCountyDeb.

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