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Native Americans Keep Grasslands Traditions Alive With Dance

By Raetta Holdman

DENVER (CBS4) - For hundreds of years Native Americans have expressed themselves through clothing and dance.

In those traditional dances, every piece of clothing and every move has a deep significance, honoring a particular idea or way of life.

"When the villagers moved, we were very nomadic tribes," said Grace Gillett, the executive director of the Denver Pow Wow.

Grasslands Denver Pow Wow Dance
(credit: CBS)

"We moved with the game. you know the seasons and that. And when ever they came upon a site, you know, a good camping place. The grass dancers would line up that society and they would dance across the camp area. Tamping down the grass and praying for protection while they camped there," Gillett said.

The grass dance is one of the oldest tribal dances. Flattening the grass also symbolizes a victory over an enemy.

(credit: CBS)

The grasslands were not only home for Native Americans, they also provided food.

The prairie chicken dance is one dance that honors those gifts.

"The prairie chicken was one of the grandfathers, the bird came to the ceremony and he said he wouldn't let the people starve, that he would get them through the hard times. In return he asked for us to do a ceremony and dance like him and mimic his movements," explained Rod Atcheynum. He is from the Sweet Grass Nation in Canada.

(credit: CBS)

Even today,

"They all have tribal programs that look out for the environment. They're all environmental programs they make sure if any construction comes, they reclaim the area if anything's damaged," Gillett said.

Bison Generic
(credit: CBS)

You can learn much more about the grasslands by joining CBS4's Dave Aguilera for a virtual field trip to the Pawnee National Grasslands sponsored by Whiting Petroleum.


Grasslands Live airs Wednesday at 11 a.m. here on

Raetta Holdman is a veteran newscast producer. She's been with CBS4 for more than 25 years, coordinating events -- large and small -- from the control room. Contact her by clicking here.

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