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July 3, 2013

GT Band celebrates culture at Cherry Fest

TRAVERSE CITY — Dottie Willruth had a list of topics to delve into when she moved to Traverse City from Florida seven weeks ago.

Among them: the area’s Native American roots. Curiosity drew Willruth to the Open Space at the National Cherry Festival before her volunteer shift Tuesday. She tapped a foot to a drum’s beat and snapped photos of dancers during the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians pow wow -- a tradition for the festival’s Heritage Day.

“When I traveled to the northwest I collected books on the northwest Indians. It’s fascinating. I haven’t really learned about the tribes here that much,” Willruth said before sauntering into the intertribal dance circle.

Familiarizing others with Native American culture is one of the goals of the event, said Ken Quitugua, who posed for photos in his regalia between dances.

”We want to obviously show our side with our culture and share it with people who come to the Cherry Festival so they have a better understanding of who we are,” he said. “We’re right in Peshawbestown. Not many people know that.”

The varying dances performed Tuesday each tell a story, Quitugua said. The movement of the jingle dress dance is thought to be healing; grass dancers emulate grass swaying in the wind; men’s traditional dancers represent warriors tracking an animal; and the fancy shawl dancers imitate butterflies emerging from cocoons.

Cicilee Chivis, 15, has performed the fancy shawl dance since she could walk. She hoped the pow wow showed visitors that Native Americans respect tradition and transcend stereotypes.

”A lot of people think that just because we have casinos we have money and we drink. That’s not what it’s about – we don’t do that,” she said.

First-timer to the pow wow Noelle Nyquist, 9, left the intertribal dance impressed by the costumes.

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