Manataka American Indian Council

 

 

 

Jennifer Agi Da Tla Unega (Whitefeather) Attaway is a proud 28 year-old Cherokee Indian who currently resides in Warrior, Alabama.

Her heritage is a natural part of her life that she utilizes to teach others about the Sacred Road. Jennifer believes the Great Spirit has a path designated for each person to walk; or dance, as the case is with her. The Fancy Shawl dance is an integral part of Jennifer's ministry.

At Native American powwows, festivals, and gatherings, Jennifer can be seen sharing her dedication to the belief that when dancing in the Circle, "each step is a prayer".

Coupled with her dancing, Jennifer also shares her love of her culture and the Creator through speaking engagements. During these talks, she educates the audience about the beliefs and customs of Native American Indians.

Jennifer was the featured dancer at the Manataka Summer Gathering 2003 in Gulpha Gorge National Park, Hot Springs, Arkansas

See pictures of her dancing HERE.

FANCY SHAWL

The Fancy Shawl Dance is the most modern and newest style of Native American dances. It originated in the early 1950's & 60's with the Northern tribes along the U.S.-Canadian border. Back then, it was called Graceful Shawl Dance because the steps weren't nearly as lively as they are today. The dance's current name comes from the still graceful, but much fancier footwork. The Fancy Shawl Dance now is a very strenuous one that requires much athletic skill.

Representing butterfly wings, the women move fast; twirling, kicking, and performing intricate steps that are individually choreographed. This allows the female dancers the opportunity for self-expression. The dance requirements, however, are that the steps be always in time with the drum and that the lady ends with both feet on the ground at the last beat. Not only do the STEPS signify the butterfly in flight, but also, the dancer's regalia emphasizes this magnificent beauty.

The color scheme ties together the dress, shawl, moccasins, and accessories. And more importantly, the colors have tribal or personal significance to the dancer. The fringed shawl is worn around the shoulders and is unfurled during the dance, becoming an integral part of the lady's self-expression.

The Fancy Shawl Dance is a splash of color, fringe, and footwork, each step so quick and light that the young woman almost looks as though she's dancing on air. Finally, there are different versions of the butterfly legend on which the Fancy Shawl Dance is based. One way to tell it is that there was a beautiful butterfly who lost her mate in a battle. In mourning, she wrapped herself in a cocoon and traveled the world over, stepping on every stone until she found the right one and was able to start her life anew. When she discovered this stone, she celebrated new life with such sheer radiance, that she seemed to be dancing while in flight. It is said that in the old days, when young women came out of mourning, they danced this dance. So, when the Fancy Shawl dancer steps and twirls, she lives out the legend and represents the butterfly's joyful wings. She celebrates new life.

See Fancy Shawl Dancing Photos

 

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