Alpine School District program teaches students about Native American culture through dance

May 10, 2018, 12:32 AM

LINDON, Utah – Turning a school cafeteria into a dance floor is just one of many talents dance instructor Patrick Willie has. The nationally-recognized performer is one of a handful of instructors who meet with dozens of Alpine School District students Wednesday nights for a cultural lesson. Willie instructs hoop and fancy dance style classes, passing down his knowledge to the next generation.

“We are trying to reach the students with Native American culture and teach them about their roots so that they can ultimately teach others,” Willie said.

The District’s Title VI Indian Education program aims to support and empower American Indian/Alaskan Native students by embracing positive native values. Program instructors believe the weekly events help honor the culture’s past, present, and future contributions to our society.

“I feel like I not only teach them dance, but I teach them the importance of the dance,” Willie said. “For them to be able to come here to dance, I think it helps them connect even more to their culture because they understand there is so much to learn.”

That was the case for student Emo’onahe Youngbull, who said she did not have much knowledge about her culture before these classes.

“I knew a little bit, but once I started hoop dancing and doing all the other dancing, I learned a lot more,” Youngbull said.

Through the program, she along with her peers are given access to experiences they would not normally have.

“We want our students to have as many experiences as they can since we are in the city and not necessarily close to a reservation where they would get many of these opportunities,” said Jeanie Groves, Title VI coordinator for Alpine School District.

The goal is to get these students to perform their newfound talents in front of classmates at school assemblies, something Youngbull has already accomplished this semester.

“My classmates got really happy and excited that they were seeing a different dance from a different Native American culture.”

Along with the weekly dance lessons, the program offers other activities like Native American weaving and teaching students about Native American art.

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Alpine School District program teaches students about Native American culture through dance