Tag Archives: Native American

Touched by Tokyo

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Alain Nana Kwango

If you don’t consider Omaha a beauty-style launching pad, think again. Homegrown talents Jaime King and Gabrielle Union tear it up on screen, in photo spreads, and for the red carpet. Designer Kate Walz has a Paris collection to her credit. But no one’s trending hotter than hairstylist-to-the-stars William Jackson, aka Tokyo Stylez.

This lithe young man with striking African-American and Native American features is courted for his dope skills with tresses.

“Hair is the new accessory now,” he says.

It all began in Omaha doing his family’s hair. It morphed into an enterprising hustle that became his calling and career. Based in Washington D.C., he’s a bicoastal creative with a celebrity client list: Lil’ Kim, Toni Braxton, Fantasia, Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Gabrielle Union, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner.

“It’s all about building relationships and a trust that you can create their image—their look—and bring it to life for them,” he says.

Tokyo2He’s signed to make over a TV-publishing icon. He’s close to realizing a dream of doing hair for divas Beyonce, Madonna, and Cher. He appears on TLC’s Global Beauty Masters. He tours, giving tutorials. His “Touched by Tokyo” brand features a hair fragrance mist and custom wigs.

It’s all happening so fast. But he’s ready for it.

“Right now is my time, and I just have to capture it and take things to the next level,” he says in his sweet, soft voice.

He feels his versatile chops set him apart.

“I’m like a big creative ball wrapped in one. I have a little bit of everything. You want to take it to the street, I can take you there. If you want soft, chic, and classy, I can do that. If you want a little high fashion. I do that, too. I’m just out of this world. Anything you want, I’ll do. I plan to be the next Paul Mitchell,” he says without brag.

His dreams got fired at 9 when his mother, Jessica Haynes-Jackson, was incarcerated. Some bad choices led to being caught up in a drug ring. She got busted and served several months in prison. While confined, Tokyo and his siblings lived with their father. Before going in, she says, “I asked Tokyo to take care of sissy’s hair while mommy was away. He was delighted and gracefully accepted the challenge. I knew he could do at least one ponytail, and that was all I expected.”

Except he proved a prodigy, replicating what he saw his hairdresser grandma and his mom create—braids, twists, French rolls.

He says, “I picked it up really quick. That’s kind of where I got an idea I knew what I was doing.”

When his mother was released, he couldn’t wait to show her his handiwork.

Tokyo1“She had never seen it. She’d only heard my grandmother telling her, ‘He’s killing it.’ So to show her and to see the look on her face was a great feeling.”

“This was how we discovered his amazing talent that now the whole world enjoys,” Haynes-Jackson says.

By 15, he made a name for himself doing hair. Meanwhile, his mother earned two degrees, became a mental health counselor, and coached. She is his biggest fan and inspiration.

“She’s always supported me and loved everything I’ve done. She’s an awesome lady. She is very independent. She’s never really asked anyone for anything. She’s always found a way to make things happen. I definitely would say I’ve inherited my drive from her.”

“I think what I love most about Tokyo is his warm, gentle spirit,” his mom says. “He is the same person despite his celebrity status. I think what touched my heart the most is when he traveled with his ‘Glam Squad’ to give a teenage girl battling a rare cancer a surprise makeover for her prom. I am a very proud mom.”

Tokyo’s travels have gone international. Life in the fast lane means dropping everything to do high profile gigs with tight deadlines.

He got an early taste of being a coveted stylist in school.

“Everyone came to me to get their hair done—girls and boys. My mom’s friends and clients. Their daughters. I was in such high demand it was crazy. People would be passing me notes, ‘Hey, can you do my hair after school?’ It was always something. But I knew this was something I wanted to do.”

Tokyo3With “a very steady clientele, the money was coming in,” he says. An attempt at a dancing career led to taking Tokyo as his stage name.  Seeking a bigger market as a stylist, he moved to Atlanta where he rebranded as Tokyo Stylez and blew up on social media. Celeb clients followed. In D.C. he’s minutes from New York fashion central and a nonstop flight from L.A.’s entertainment capital.

He plans to have a business presence in Omaha.

“I definitely want something back at home where it came from. It would only be right to do so.”

Meanwhile, he changes perceptions of Omaha wherever he goes.

“People are like, ‘You have black people there?’ I get that every time.”

Visit touchedbytokyo.com for more information. Omaha Magazine.

Marisa Miakonda Cummings

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

I would like to begin by introducing myself. My English name is Marisa Cummings. My Omaha or Umoⁿhoⁿ name is Miakonda or Moon Power. I was given my Buffalo Tail Clan name by my great-grandmother, Edith Walker Springer. My father is the late Michael Cummings, or Stampeding Buffalo. My father’s mother is Eunice Walker Mohn, or Buffalo Tail Clan Woman. My grandmother’s parents are the late Charles Amos Walker, or White Chest, and the late Ida Springer Walker, or New Moon. I am an Omaha woman. I am a Buffalo Tail Clan woman of the Sky people. I am the oldest child of eight children. I am the mother of four children.

As I wrote the paragraph to introduce myself, I was mentally translating from Umoⁿhoⁿ to English. The Umoⁿhoⁿ language is a beautiful conduit of culture. Self introductions are very important in our community. One must know who they are to know where they are going in this life. Language allows us to express ourselves to one another as human beings, to talk to the Creator, and express ourselves through song and ceremony. As language is a conduit for expressing thoughts and feelings, and relaying cultural knowledge, it is essential that our Umoⁿhoⁿ language is revered and preserved for our future generations. We must preserve our language to talk to our Creator through our ceremonies as we were instructed to do in our language.

Marisa3My grandmother grew up hearing Umoⁿhoⁿ spoken as the primary language at home; it was her first language. She has told me about her parents waking well before sunrise and praying in Umoⁿhoⁿ in the kitchen. Her father, Charles Walker or Mongaska, was taken to Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Carlisle was a military-style school founded in 1879 by Capt. Richard Pratt under the authority of the U.S. government with the founding principle that Native Americans were a vanishing race and their only hope for survival was assimilation to white mainstream culture. The first thing done was to cut off the children’s sacred hair. The second step was to make them stop speaking their traditional language and converse in English. My great-grandfather came back to the reservation after his stay at Carlisle and remained fluent in both Umoⁿhoⁿ and English. He served on our tribal council for over 25 years. My grandmother’s mother, Ida or Metexi, was sent to Genoa Indian Industrial School in Genoa, Nebraska. She also returned to the reservation and spoke fluent Umoⁿhoⁿ. Both of my great-grandparents survived assimilation and Indian boarding schools and retained their Umoⁿhoⁿ language in daily practice in and outside of their home.

Tragedy struck when my grandmother was 10 years old. Her mother passed away and left eight orphaned children. Her father decided to send her, at age 14, to Haskell Indian School in Lawrence, Kansas. There was no more playing in the timber, no more collecting wild plums and gooseberries. She was alone. She said that she often wondered what she did wrong. Was her father angry with her? Why would he send her away? My grandmother graduated from Haskell and moved to Sioux City, Iowa, with the courage to start a life for herself.

My father was born in 1955. He was considered a “half-breed,” as his father was a white man. However, his grandfather, Charlie Walker, took pity on him and gave him the Umoⁿhoⁿ Buffalo Tail Clan name Te-Nuga-Na-Tide. My father was an incredible man. He received his master’s degree from Iowa State University and went to work for the corporate world. He always instilled in me the power of education and the importance of coming back to help the people with the education I received. I was raised to be of service and make a difference. My father also raised me like a first-born son. He made me tough, taught me to always speak up and use my voice, to be courageous and strategic. He told me that women have a strong place in leadership and that Native women will be at the front of the movement to bring back language and culture. He was very proud when I graduated with a degree from the University of Iowa.

Marisa1As a young woman, I was always interested in our language. I would ask my grandma and great-grandma to tell me stories. I would sit at their feet or at the kitchen table in my grandma’s trailer while I asked one question after another. I think she got tired of me at times. I still am always asking questions of my grandmother. How do I say this? Do you remember this? She is the matriarch of our family. I am blessed that my children can be close to her and experience her unconditional love and knowledge.

In 1978, the Indian Religious Freedoms Act was passed. Our ceremonies, songs, and dances were no longer illegal. We could legally pray in the manner the Creator intended for us to pray. Yet, so many of the songs, ceremonies, and teachings were no longer practiced. In my life journey, I have rediscovered my love of ceremony. I enjoy collecting and preparing medicine. I love that I have the ability to be a lifelong learner of culture and ceremony, but in order to make that true connection, I must relearn a language that is rooted in my DNA. I believe that we can relearn our sense of true self and heal both individually and collectively.

My children have been born in a generation where our ceremonies are being revived and practiced. My children have been exposed to ceremonies, songs, dance, and love of our way of life. As I embrace our ceremonies and language, I know that I am also healing those who went before me. As I heal, I give reverence to ancestors whose hearts broke when they saw English replace Umoⁿhoⁿ in their homes, those who watched alcohol replace ceremony, and those who witnessed government commodities replace our sacred foods. As we revive our sacred way of life, we renew and honor all of those who went before us.

Visit omaha-nsn.gov for more information. Omaha Magazine

Visual Dialogue

July 8, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The work of multimedia artist Sarah Rowe is often described as having a “sense of playfulness and a hint of sarcasm,” and Rowe herself says that art sometimes speaks in a way that is provocative and challenging more than serving as a thing of beauty.

“I’m just a firm believer in not questioning what it is that you’re called to do. I’m not trying to please anyone, not even myself necessarily,” she says.

SarahRowe3Native American themes from symbology to history are prevalent in many of Rowe’s works; she is of Lakota and Ponca descent and is an enrolled member of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. “I was brought up with Lakota ceremony and tradition,” she says. “I identify with both, but I would say my spiritual ties are definitely Lakota.” Through her art, she has confronted issues from self-identity to the history of exploitation of Native Americans as well as honored the traditions of her ancestors.

“It’s been an interesting journey, certainly, as an urban Native. And there’s been a lot of discouragement there, but in a way it’s inspired me to carry on and use that part of me and that voice. I almost feel like I have a responsibility,” she says. “Using art as a platform is such a great way to raise awareness and have a dialogue…I want people to feel comfortable to approach me, and share my ideas and history, and connect as human beings that way.”

Her calling has led her to explore a wide spectrum of media, from metal to photography to performance art including traditional flute and dance.

“I went to art school as a sculptor but I was so interested in learning all of these new techniques that I left with a studio degree,” she explains. Rowe received a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Webster University after studying in both St. Louis, Missouri, and Vienna, Austria. “I kind of just gave everything a try.”

SarahRowe2Rowe is not only a visual and performing artist, but also a practitioner of the healing arts, or as she succinctly puts it: “Very hands-on.” She works as a licensed esthetician at Curb Appeal Salon and Spa in the Old Market, where she’s been able to integrate her heritage by practicing holistic, multisensory body treatments with aspects of Lakota healing ceremonies. Rowe says she believes sharing knowledge of these healing ceremonies “enriches connections to ourselves and the earth, promoting well-being and balance of mind and body.” She also enjoys connecting to nature through hiking and exploring with her 11-year-old daughter, who’s already showing her own artistic talents as a writer and illustrator.

Rowe has exhibited through numerous galleries and arts organizations including the four-year project Sweatshop Gallery in Benson (which she co-founded), RNG Gallery in Council Bluffs, The Union for Contemporary Art, and Joslyn Art Museum’s Art Seen. She is currently represented by Darger HQ Gallery, an international artist collective based in Omaha. Some of her pieces are commercially available at Hutch, a furniture and home accents retailer in Midtown Crossing, and samples of her artworks can also be seen on her website, saroart.net (the name winks at her lifelong experience of people running her first and last name together as “Saro”).

“You can never learn it all, and I think that’s part of the fun,” Rowe says. Encounter

Visit saroart.net for more information.

Plains Living on a Mountainous Scale

January 3, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

While driving towards Waterloo, Nebraska, Jana Wheatley came upon a sign reading “Live a more fluid life,” touting a coming residential lake community to be named West Shores. She longed to live in nature. Taking in the lake, the beach, and empty plots, she envisioned the Colorado lodge-style home she ended up building there.

PlainsLiving2

She and her now-ex bought the lakefront property in 2004. She served as general contractor for the build, subbing out jobs. Working with budgets and subs was old hat, as she owned a grounds management business with her then-husband.

She describes the resulting four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 6,000 square-foot house near the western limits of West Dodge Road as “comfy, rustic, chic,” adding, “We always kind of had an idea about what we wanted. I like simple. I don’t like foo-foo.”

Covenants prevented her from building with logs so she went with an exterior of cedar shingles and stone, and an interior with wide plank pine floors and ceilings, hickory cabinetry, granite counters, and variegated stone. The plaster walls are finished in a soft Texas leather. The rooms conform to her desire for “big, open, flowing spaces with natural light.” The living room, dining room, and kitchen open onto each other, and light from multiple windows brighten and soften the space.

PlainsLiving3

She likes the unfinished floors’ character in their flaws and scrapes.

“It’s worn but it shows it’s lived in, that people are having fun and it’s not a museum. I want people to enjoy themselves here.”

The living room has an unimpeded lake view through sliding glass doors that lead onto a south-facing deck running the full width of the house. Her bedroom opens onto the deck and its 180-degree view.

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“There’s nothing like watching the sunrise, and the sunset, and the geese flying over,” she says.

Her bathroom features a free-standing deep tub and a tall enclosed shower. The bathroom and kitchen plumbing fixtures are Industrial Age antique-inspired. The floors everywhere are warmed by an in-floor water heating system.

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Her love of nature is expressed in a mammoth antler horn chandelier fixed high above the living room. A slightly smaller antler art piece hangs from the ceiling above the staircase, connecting the main floor living area and the lower level rec area, where a miniature horn fixture crowns the billiards table.

The mantles above the two fireplaces continue the horn theme.

“It just says Colorado to me,” she says.

A hand-wrought iron chandelier sets off the kitchen island.

Her favorite space is a kitchen nook she calls “my little Indian corner” for its Native American wall art and traditional furniture designs.

PlainsLiving6

Southwestern-style pots and paintings add decorative flourishes.

The lower level offers more lake views.

“The house is like a frame to look outside and that’s what I end up doing—gazing outside.”

In the last 10 years she’s added a son and lost a husband but she still has her home.

“Can you tell it’s a labor of love? It’s a piece of me. It’s my dream. I’m having my Colorado right here.” OmahaHome

PlainsLiving1

Sister, Sister

November 12, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Sitting across from Cami and Maci Schott, you might find it hard to fathom when they tell you they are Native American, two of some 3,000 members of the Ponca tribe.

“Oh yeah, we get that all the time,” laughs Maci as she tucks away a strand of dirty blonde hair. “People don’t believe us.”

PoncaGirls2The sisters get their Ponca heritage from their mother, Candy, who works for the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. Her husband, John, is Polish, German, and French. Over the generations, the native gets “washed out,” explains Candy.

Even though their Native American heritage isn’t outwardly obvious, both sisters show their Ponca pride by staying deeply involved in their tribe. Neither has ever missed a powwow, where they can be found dancing to the beat of drums at the Ponca’s annual gathering in Niobrara, Nebraska.

Cami, a senior at Roncalli High School, adorns herself in “jingle dancer” attire, a dress fitted with cones that create rhythmic music as she bounces and moves. Legend has it that this “healing dress” was constructed for a father’s sickly daughter. As the daughter danced and jingled, she grew stronger, healthier, brighter.

Maci, a sophomore at the same school, is a “fancy shawl” dancer, so named for the voluminous garb with frayed edges that evoke images of a butterfly or eagle. Fancy dancers stretch their arms to a T as they twirl, showcasing the intricate, bold design of the fabric.

“We’ve always done it since we were…I don’t even remember how old we were when we started,” says Maci. “We still have little fancy shawls that are so tiny.”

Both girls are active in their tribe far beyond the annual powwow. The Schott sisters, along with 10 other tribal youths, accepted the Gen-I Challenge in hopes of being accepted to attend the White House’s first-ever Tribal Youth Gathering in Washington, D.C. earlier this summer.

PoncaGirls3The Tribal Youth Gathering built on President Obama’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative. The purpose of the effort is to fund and expand education, health, and employment opportunities for tribal youth across the country.

Along with other area Ponca youth, the sisters launched Ponca Pantry, a food drive designed for tribal elders in need. The program collected 150 cans of food in a single day at a Ponca health fair.

“Our Ponca Pantry,” starts Cami, “allows people who are blessed enough to have certain things to give to people who really need them.”

During the winter the youths intend to expand the program to collect clothing items. The group also plans to pull younger kids into the program to secure its place in the tribe for years to come.

It would have been a happy day if only one of the Ponca Pantry team was selected to attend the gathering in D.C. Instead, all 12 were invited to represent the Ponca Nation.

Attendees of the Tribal Youth Gathering listened to various speakers, but all eyes were on the highlight of the program, an appearance by the First Lady. The sisters will remember Michelle Obama’s message as one that will inspire them to continue to dream big when it comes to community leadership.

“We’re not just Native American leaders,” says Maci. “We’re the youth,” of America. “We’re going to be the future leaders in households, in government, in society.”

They even managed to squeeze through the crowd and grab a quick hug from the First Lady. Even though Obama was hobbled by crutches at the time, the sisters report that she was still looking fabulous, per usual. Michelle Obama’s brains, beauty, and keen fashion sense, the girls add, now place her at the very top of their list of inspiring women.

As if Ponca Pantry and tribal activities don’t keep the girls busy enough, both also play volleyball and basketball in addition to being student ambassadors.

Cami coaches a girls’ basketball team, while Maci is active in student government as co-president of her grade. On top of all their extracurriculars, Cami and Maci are honor students and both earn top-tier grades.

The Schott sisters are looking forward to the future with a gusto fueled by unyielding determination and overwhelming support from their family, friends, and tribe.

“We try to give our helping hand to our tribe,” says Maci as Cami nods in agreement. “And we’re grateful for everything they do for us as well.”

Visit poncatribe-ne.org to learn more.

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Saving the Sacred

August 29, 2014 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Holy and charged with emotion—dances for the departed, drum beats to ancient rhythms, regalia adorned with symbols of legends and deeds and faith—the pow-wow circle is tuned to solemnity, meaning, and reverence.

Then again, some of the time, not so much. Take this recent scene from the pow-wow put on each year by the Winnebago Tribe. In the circle, the emcee hands out event T-shirts to winners of the pow-wow 5K as he ribs a group of men setting up equipment for an upcoming drumming competition. He then offers sagely advice: “Let those drum heads sit out in the sun for a bit. Loosen up the leather.” Outside the ring, kids and parents gobble up “Rez Dogs” with buns made of fry bread. South of the ring beneath a stand of mammoth cottonwoods artisans from around the country sell their wares. A group of softball players return to the park from a pow-wow tournament game.

Along with the sacred comes this vibe of the county fair. Fun, loose, festive. Increasingly, a real crowd-pleaser atmosphere for America’s native peoples and non-natives alike.

In the last few decades, Rich Barea of Omaha, a member of the Omaha Tribe, has watched the evolution of the pow-wow from mostly small, close-knit, amateur events into major festivals with big-name music groups and comedians, high-dollar dance competitions, and sometimes massive invasions by anyone with anything vaguely Native American to sell.

 “For the most part, this incredible growth has been wonderful and exciting,” says Barea, who, now retired from his job with the City of Omaha, has time to travel the country dancing pow-wows from Oklahoma to Canada. “But, sure, some of the original meaning can get lost in all the hoopla and commercialism. The organizers of the best events know how to maintain that all-important balance.”

Barea, 66, hit several of the major competitive pow-wows this summer. He made a little money with his traditional dancing in the seniors division. Prize money might cover expenses. Money isn’t the point.


The long road of the summer pow-wow season comes to an end September 13 at the Fort Omaha Intertribal Powwow, which Barea has helped organize since its inception 23 years ago. Besides more than 200 dancers, the pow-wow at the Fort Omaha Campus of Metro Community College will feature a series of discussions and classes on pow-wow and Native American history topics.

The Fort Omaha event is, according to Barea and its lead organizer, Barbara Velazquez, more of a low-key, traditional event focused more on fellowship than competition. “It’s more like family reunion than some giant fair,” Velazquez says. “It’s a comfortable get-together of many tribes and anyone who would like to take in the pow-wow experience.” “It’s a wind-down to the season,” Barea says. “It’s a chance to see a lot of old friends in the region.”

The Omaha pow-wow also is, increasingly, an anomaly. It is a relative unknown on the national pow-wow circuit, on which the country’s top dancers, announcers, and performers tour followed by an entourage of vendors. Top emcees easily command $15,000 for a weekend job. The Winnebago event offered $60,000 in prize money.

In this environment, traveling food vendors and artisans can make a respectable living from a three-or-four month tour of America’s Indian Country. More and more families, particularly from tribes with deep artistic traditions, make a living on the road selling their work.

Between 11 a.m. and noon on Saturday of the Winnebago event, Craig Charles, a traditional Navaho metal artist, sold $300 in rings, bracelets, earrings, and other small goods from a booth beneath the cottonwoods. Most of the most intricate copper, bronze, and silver items—many inlayed with turquoise—were actually made by his uncle, Archie Teller, he admits. “He’s the master,” Charles says. “Well known throughout Navaho country. I’m not to his level yet. Mainly, I’m the guy who goes on the road and sells, sells, sells for the family.”

Charles lives east of Flagstaff, Ariz., on the western edge of the vast Navaho Reservation. The life of a Navaho artist can be hard for even the most skilled. “The scene of the guy sitting out in a tiny shack along some desolate road in the middle of the desert still exists,” Charles says. “My uncle lived that life. This is different. The big pow-wows basically bring a better life for us.

“Look around here,” he says, pointing to the bustle of the pow-wow. “Compare this to being in a shack in 110-degree heat with two cars coming by in a day. You meet people all day, see beautiful things all day. It can be a real joy.”

Charles, 47, says that most of the Navaho artists he knows weren’t traveling 20 years ago. Slowly, more and more have hit the road, particularly as the summer pow-wow circuit in the north and the winter pow-wow circuit across the southern United States have grown. Charles, his son, and various other extended family members now typically hit 16 or so events a year. Not only does the tour pay the bills, he says, it has helped lure younger tribe members to take up traditional arts.

And, increasingly, he says, Navaho, including his son, are now dancing in many of the events. “He has made his regalia, he practices, he’s pretty darn good now,” Charles says. “The funny thing: He even trains some for his dancing. He runs. Some of these dances are like a basketball game’s worth of exercise. It’s serious stuff if you take it seriously.”

Barea, well-known to Omaha theatergoers as, he says, “the guy that gets asked to play the Native American character,” makes his own regalia. He does his own bead work. He makes his own moccasins. He particularly enjoys making his own war clubs. He makes small ones for his grandkids. He makes a few “very whimsical ones,” too, including one of his favorites, “the mad chicken club.”

Do the math here: Rich Barea’s heavily beaded moose-hide vest alone weighs 13 pounds. He often carries one of his handmade war clubs or war shields into the circle. Combined with the beads, bones, and leather of his other regalia, Barea often hauls 40 extra pounds when he’s dancing. (He notes that some of the top dancers use plastic bone and other light-weight options to keep the weight down on their regalia).

He might participate in 60 dances in a long weekend. Some of those dances can last more than a half hour, such as a recent one that ran to 40 minutes “because the emcee just kept on talking and talking during the dance,” he says. “They can be quite long-winded,” he jokes. In the summer, temperatures can approach 100 degrees. The humidity can drive heat indexes up to 110 degrees. Add all this up: “I’ve lost 22 pounds,” he says. “It’s a sport. Depending on the style of the dance, it can be a serious sport.”

Indeed, dancing and drumming can play a very similar role in a young person’s life as organized sports, says Barea, who has coached Omaha youth teams for decades, including an all-Native American baseball team for 16 years. You learn to work with others. You learn to work toward a goal. You learn a skill, and more important, you learn how to learn a skill. The list goes on, he says.

Of course, learning the tribal dances and rhythms can mean much more than some recreational sport for young Native Americans. “This connects us to who we are and where we’ve been as a people.”

Barea says he hopes to have 13 of his 60 grandchildren participating in the Fort Omaha event (he and his wife, now deceased, took in many other children over the years in addition to their five birth children). With so much family there, with so many friends from the Omaha area, with so many tribal members coming from Midwestern tribes, many of which are close cousins to the Omaha Tribe, Barea says the event will be “a real homecoming and reunion for so many of us. I’m always excited as the pow-wow gets closer.”

And like always, he says, the pow wow will be laid back and fun, but also, at its core, filled with meaning. Barea has dance steps that are homages to friends and fellow dancers who have died. He also dances in tribute to his wife, his son, and other family members who have passed away. “You dance for the people who aren’t there. You dance for those who can’t dance.

“I don’t see any time when the tradition and meaning and the passing on of tradition will get overrun by all the growth and commercialism,” he says. “It’s too important to too many tribes and their people. I think people will always find a way to maintain a balance between the festive and the sacred.”