After the Standing Bear Council of Keokuk, Iowa, led ceremonies at the Bear Creek Rendezvous on Aug. 13 and 14 at the Mark Twain Cave complex, the crowd that gathered around the dancers' circle was rewarded with a double treat.
This was provided by the Omeyocan Dancers of Wisconsin, making their first local appearance, as they did Aztec dances. In addition to watching their fast-paced dancing — featuring twirling, kicking and bowing — the audience learned the history of each dance from the leader, Roberto Franco.
Franco said they were representing Aztec people from Mexico, noting, "we don't have to kill any animals" for the feathers in their headdresses. He added, "feathers represent a connection between land and the sky.'"
One was a fast-paced deer dance, with the circle of colorfully-clad dancers twirling around and kicking.
Another dance was to Mother Earth and dedicated to all the ladies present. "Mothers provide for all creatures," Franco said. This dance involved a lot of bowing and twirling.
Volunteers from the crowd were invited to join for the eagle dance, which Franco said represented the four elements: water, fire, air and earth. People of all ages joined the circle of dancers, including Miss Quincy, Angelica Niemann. Franco encouraged them to try the dance steps, promising, "We will start slow and then see how fast we can go."
After this Franco displayed an Aztec blanket with a large circle of Aztec pictures and symbols. Explaining what some of the pictures meant, he said the face with wrinkles represented an older person.
A knife on the face, he said, means "Be careful what you say. The tongue an be as sharp as an obsidian knife. It means think before you speak."
After the performance, Miss Quincy explained she is a dancer and a member of the dance team at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, although this Aztec dancing was very different.
Dancers 'were very much in sync.'
"The dancers were spectacular, especially if you could see their (pheasant) feathers in the sunlight. They were very much in sync," said Linda Coleberd, owner of the Mark Twain Cave, as she explained she invited them to her rendezvous after watching them perform in January in Quincy, Ill.
The Aztec dancers were not the only people sharing Native American history. It also was heard from storyteller Pablo Baum, who told how the Eskimos arrived in America.
"I'm so thankful that the weather was good," Coleberd said, adding she was glad "the black powder shooting and tomahawk throwing and archery went over so well." The traditional buffalo burgers also were popular, she said.
In addition to the people who came to see the events and contests, the rendezvous gave members of Native American clans a chance for a reunion. One was Karen Sparrow of the Standing Bear Council in Keokuk, a former Hannibal resident who was greeting friends from all over Missouri and Iowa.
The people meandering among the vendors booths were examining a variety of Native American jewelry, fur products, clothing and other items.
One vendor, Jim Strohmeyer of Cairo, Mo., was selling both straight and curved bows he made from plastic pipe. He said the straight bows were more traditionally (American) Indian. He prefers plastic bows because wood can break. He learned how to make these bows on YouTube.
"It's been a huge crowd," said Leslie Haslem, who worked with Coleberd in planning the rendezvous and was in charge of registering the vendors. She reported between 15 and 20 vendors were participating.
Coleberd was pleased with this second annual Bear Creek Rendezvous. "We had new vendors, and hopefully it will be bigger and better next year."
She promised the rendezvous will continue to be scheduled on the second weekend in August.
Reach reporter Bev Darr at firstname.lastname@example.org.