I didn't begin my path on the Native American powwow trail until the Spring of 1991, my senior year in high school, when I began actively researching that part of my family's history. I attended my first powwow in March 1992, at 19 years old. The following February, I reported to Naval Recruit Training Command in San Diego, CA, where I ultimately met and befriended several American Indian dancers.
One of those dancers was Kim Flying Eagle, Navajo Hoop Dancer and younger brother of Eric RunningPath, the "Olympic Indian" from the opening ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. It took some convincing, but Kim eventually agreed to share the Hoop Dance with me, so that I could bring it back to New England. Other Hoop Dancers had performed in New England before that time, but seeing one perform was so rare that most of my friends and family on the powwow trail had never even heard of the Hoop Dance.
In the late-Summer and early-Fall of 1993, I brought the Hoop Dance back to New England, and virtually cemented my place in local history (how's that for an "I love me, who do you love..."?). That winter, I was stationed at Bath (Maine) Iron Works during the construction of the Naval vessel I was assigned to, USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54). I performed the Hoop Dance at a Ship's Christmas Party, and firmly caught the attention of the senior officers, as well as the entire crew. I was invited, unofficially, to act as Goodwill Ambassador for the ship.
My friends in San Diego caught wind of this honor, and, headed up by Dave Two Ravens, quickly arranged an honoring celebration on the pier at the ship's new homeport at Naval Station San Diego. This, in turn, sparked the interest of the NAVSTA SAN DIEGO Public Affairs Office, the San Diego Union Tribune, and several television news teams in San Diego. Any time a ship, especially a new one, arrives at its new homeport, it's a major media event, but the day USS Curtis Wilbur arrived in San Diego for the first time, March 21, 1994, it was a day unlike any other in Naval Station San Diego's history, with some thirty dancers performing on the pier with a Navajo Drum group singing. The group was then invited onboard, where the dancing continued. Several crew members, including the ship's Executive Officer, joined in...of course, I did too.
From that point, I performed the hoop dance with my friends at many powwows and other events throughout Southern CA, and indeed the world.
Some of my highlights during the '90's (my time in the Navy) include a home-plate performance with the Eagle Talon Dancers at Qualcomm Stadium, then known as the Jack Murphy Stadium, before a San Diego Padres game (long before they were cool enough to have their own stadium on the other side of town). Another "stadium" performance was at a powwow held at Honolulu's Aloha Stadium.
In the Fall of 1995, I became the first person in US Naval history to perform the Hoop Dance aboard a US Warship at sea in a combat zone, when I performed SEVERAL times during my ship's deployment to the Persian Gulf.
Upon my permanent return home to Boston in 1997, I literally filled my Summer powwow schedule, and currently attend powwows nearly every weekend from Memorial Day weekend to Hallowe'en, and several indoor powwows throughout the winter. One of the more recent highlights in the years since my Navy career, certainly one of the most notable ones, was helping to open the Bennington (VT) Museum exhibit of the travelling Smithsonian exhibit "Booming Out: Mohawk Iron Workers Build New York." I had the honor and privilege to perform twice. My 5-19-06 hoop dance was a private performance for museum members prior to the opening (hobnobbing opportunity), and the following day was for the general public on opening day.
For nearly 17 years prior to June 2010, I enjoyed the distinction of being the only "full-time" hoop dancer in all of New England. In a sense I still am, since most of my family is still there, and I will travel back home whenever the opportunity arises, but now I make my home in Frederick, Maryland, where the next chapter of my career path starts.
I trace my Native genealogy primarily to the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation of upstate New York, and I share the Hoop Dance at many powwows and other events throughout the year, as well as schools, fairs, and other non-Indian places and events.