In New York we have paid thousands of dollars to have a dinner, which you certainly don’t go to for the food but to benefit the institution. The ones that really bother me are the huge banquets for the benefit of those without food. They are the ones who should be fed, not us “fat cats”.
At the Pueblo of Pojoaque we went to a benefit, held at the tribe’s Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino, which was actually about the food as well as a very good cause. It was not a formal dinner but rather a 4-hour continuous luncheon feast and entertainment. The tribe has its own herd of buffalo and one was slaughtered yielding 300 pounds of meat that fed hundreds of guests. The Native Americans love contests and in this case three chefs were asked to compete: one from Kenya, Ahmed Obo, who owns and cooks at his own restaurant in Santa Fe, Jambo, offering African Cuisine; a Navajo chef, Freddie Bitsioe, who is gearing up for a new television series that he will participate in called, “Reservations not Required” and a Hawaiian chef, Ka’ainoa Raavey who is the chef at Red Sage, one of the Buffalo Thunder Resort restaurants. Each prepared a 3-course meal in which each course had to contain buffalo. It was amazing how different it tasted in each case. Mercifully, the last chef to cook for us added some fish in with the buffalo making it surf and turf! There was a panel of 8 judges who seemed to rotate including the Mayor of Santa Fe, Javier Gonzales, who had graduated from Pojoaque High School, which serves the entire valley. At the end they picked the winner and there was a Peoples’ Choice Award, which allowed all of the guests to pick their favorite as well.
It was a bit over the top but the underlying cause certainly wasn’t: sending a group of young native hoop dancers to France. Hoop Dancing is a Native American activity dating back to their original healing ceremonies. The hoop represents the circle of life. Hoop dancing has recently had a revival and we were lucky enough to see a world champion and a 6-time award winner of the annual contests at the Heard Museum, Nakotah LaRance. He has toured around the world performing with the Cirque de Soleil but has come back to his Pueblo to teach the younger generation. His students range in age from 4 to 14. They train just one or two days a week and have learned so much in the year that they have been doing it.
To introduce them to public performances which children are naturally shy of doing, they started at the Buffalo Thunder Resort. A woman who saw them there invited them to come to an international festival of dance in the south of France and the ultimate goal of the event was to raise enough money to send the 13 children, together with their escorts, to Bordeaux with a day or two in Paris at both ends of the 10-12 day trip. In Paris, they will get a chance to do some street performances, a time-honored activity there. I have heard and seen wonderful concerts in front of the Comedie Française but hoop dancing will be quite a novelty. The trip will cost about $60,000 and happily the event raised a significant portion of that. An additional incentive to give was the raffle of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. The tickets cost $100 each and they sold about 525 out of the 600 tickets available. I must admit that I did not participate in that the odds of winning that motorcycle were too good, and I am too old to start riding one… if only I were a few years younger
Of course, the audience was treated to hoop dances by the little ones, then the older youngsters and finally the grand master himself. We have seen him dance before at Indian Market, the Governor’s Mansion and other Santa Fe events. He never ceases to amaze. The person who told us the history of the hoop dance, played the drum and composed and sang the songs for the dancers, was Nakotah’s proud father, Steve LaRance.
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Later a group of native hip-hop dancers, called New Tribes, did their different kind of dance, which became an audience participation event. The 5-year old son of the Governor of Pojoaque, George Rivera, Valentino, was not only a participant in the hoop dancing but also got out in front of the hip hop dancers and showed them his stuff!
It was incredible how much was packed into those hours and how much food we packed into ourselves!