Students Experience Hoop Dancing from Lakota Artist Chief Eagle

Posted on: March 18, 2021

From March 8 to 12, St. Joseph’s Indian School students and staff welcomed visiting artist and hoop dancer Starr Chief Eagle to campus as part of the South Dakota Arts Council Artist in Residency Program. Chief Eagle is a talented Lakota Artist and “Hoop Dancer Extraordinaire” who travels the world telling her story and sharing her knowledge about her culture. 

Students watched quietly in awe as Chief Eagle explained the history of Native American powwow dancing and each style’s cultural background. She welcomed questions from students who raised their hands with excitement in the hope they would be next to quiz Chief Eagle. Seventh grade student Jules Bruguier enjoyed learning new things from Chief Eagle and watching his first hoop dance. “I learned that the rock is our oldest elder and that hoop dancing was part of our culture. This is the first time I have ever seen a hoop dance and I thought it was pretty cool, “said Bruguier.

As soon as Chief Eagle finished explaining instructions, the gymnasium quickly turned into a hands-on classroom. Students made a circle in the middle of the gym floor, grabbed three hoops and began mimicking the designs that Chief Eagle demonstrated from the center. This is a very special time for Chief Eagle in her presentation. She loves performing but getting to watch what happens with a student when they can experience the dancing individually is priceless. “It is simply amazing what happens to a Native American child when they are learning about their heritage. They are engaged. There is a spark in their eye. They are open to both listening and sharing their own experiences with the culture,” said Chief Eagle.

Each artist who visits campus shares their art and talent, and provides a weeklong curriculum with the students. This allows each grade to spend time with the artist and experience their form of art in a smaller, personalized group. Chief Eagle enjoys sharing her culture and the Hoop Dance with the students but feels like it can be so much more than that. “I want the students at St. Joseph’s Indian School to see a positive role model who takes pride in their Indigenous identity. No matter what they may or may not have known about the Native culture, I want to help them to reconnect with it in one way or another, so that the culture can live on,” said Chief Eagle.

Chief Eagle is an enrolled member of the Sicangu (Rosebud) Lakota Sioux Tribe and grew up around the Black Hills of South Dakota. Her hoop dancing inspiration comes from her father, Dallas, who is a well-renowned hoop dancer. This visit was made possible in part through the South Dakota Arts Council Artists in Schools & Communities (AISC). AISC is a residency program for K-12 schools and community organizations with matching funds from the South Dakota Arts Council.