Yesterday, I decided to go to the Native American Festival in Guilford, CT (thank you Bryan for telling me about it!) and I'm glad I did. I grew up in a predominately-white small town, so every chance I get, I like to put myself out there and connect with people from different backgrounds. I met a lot of nice people, learned how to make natural ink from berries and walnuts, explored the goods for sale, and best of all, sat back and watched some traditional Native American dancing.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I love to dance and I am a big believer in the healing benefits of self-expression, so when I heard there was going to be a dance performance, I zipped right over to the bench circle. I watched but I also listened as the speaker explained each style of dance and the reasons behind the different outfits. I was fascinated by the colors and inspired by the variety. Each dance had a purpose: one told the story of the hunt, another initiated womanhood. Some of the dances were serious and slow, while others were energetic and vibrant. In the end, all the dancers came together to unite the different tribes, regions, moods, and styles. The effect was beautiful. I sat back and wondered, "Why can't our world be this way? Why can't all the colors, backgrounds, beliefs, and differences shine together? When are we going to realize diversity is what makes us beautiful?"
The dancing ended and the heartbeat of the drum stopped, but the beautiful feeling of connection didn't fade. I walked around the festival by myself, and yet felt completely at home. Acceptance is abundant among Native Americans. Everywhere I went, people smiled and said hello. They invited me into conversations and welcomed me to learn about their culture. I was moved when I learned the outfits worn by Native Americans are not "costumes", but are extensions of who they are. They embrace uniqueness. They don't shame it like so many people do in our American "What Not to Wear" culture. I always felt funny about that show because it seemed the point of the program was to make everyone the same. I personally don't ever want to fit into someone else's well-defined and confined box. I prefer the Native American way. I prefer gorgeously unique self-expression.