American Cultural Dance
5/16/2013 7:55 AM
Author: Dr. Apanakhi Buckley
What a transformative—what a breathtaking—experience it was to work with Dr. Chad Hamill! It has taken me two months to digest what I learned from him. Chad visited us from Northern Arizona University, where he teaches musicology, from March 14 – 15, 2013. There was something magic about connecting with him on this project.
From when I came to Heritage University thirteen years ago, I have been hoping to see a shift toward coursework that genuinely incorporates a Yakama perspective. The Indigenous Studies program to which Winona Wynn has invited me to contribute is what I have been hoping for. Working with Chad on the project had the heady texture of bringing that dream to life.
Winona included Yakama elders in Chad’s visit and working with them opened my ears. I especially enjoyed the women’s circle who met at the Yakama Cultural Center. I felt like I had come home. The women’s circle created a space for imagining how education might look. I was swept away by their vision. I hope that they invite me back.
Chad’s vision of indigenous music is broad and deep. He spoke of the dance—the corroboree—of indigenous Australians. That had great meaning for me. It was the music of the didgeridoo that drew me to Australia three decades ago. I remember indigenous friends telling me of the min-min lights that Chad mentioned. My friends were in Northern Queensland, where I made my home for seven years. (My children were both born there—Australian citizens.) While indigenous Australian languages and cultures were very different from the cultures of home, there is something about indigeneity that is common across continents. I felt that again as I listened to Chad.
Reflecting on his research on indigenous music, Chad spoke of songs resonating with a spiritual path. The course I will be teaching for Winona will be about dance and I connected how Chad spoke of music with how I think of dance. To me, dance is praying with my feet. Dance and music both lift us to a spiritual plane. That is not all that music does, but it is an important part of how indigenous people use music.
A participant in one of Chad’s studies said, “When we were singing the songs you felt harmony—connecting with the harmony within yourself.” That’s what I felt working with Chad on the Indigenous Studies project—harmony within myself. Chad has agreed to co-teach the American Cultural Dance course with me and I think we can look forward to an inspiring course.
Written by Apanakhi Buckley