Native Village 
Youth and Education News

March 1, 2013

Oneida music program keeps culture alive
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Wisconsin: The Oneida Nations Art Program is uniting the Oneida community and helping them embrace their traditions through music, dance, and language. 

Four years ago, ONAP began "The Music From Our Culture" apprenticeship program. Oneida children, ages 6 to 14, explore their heritage through traditional music and language. They also learn traditional flute powwow and western plains traditions. So far, Music From Our Culture has reached 118 students, and staff is already training apprentices, ages 16 and over, to teach and continue the work.

Oneida children are scattered across the reservation. Music From Our Culture is trying to "bring the Oneida back together to make one family again. It's the Hotinonshonni way," said Beth Bashara, referring to the Six-Nations Iroquois Confederacy. Bashara is director ot the Oneida Nations Art Program.

Music From Our Culture has performed throughout the state, including the Wisconsin State Fair and opening for  Joanne Shenandoah, and Iroquois singer. The Oneida are part of the Iroquois Nation. Music From Our Culture teaches about both.

"We never perform for an audience fewer than 150, and when we opened for Joanne Shenandoah, we had an audience of over 300," said teacher, Kal^na Brooks.

Bashara hopes the group can begin performing on an international stage by 2014.

"We want to get our children's and our professional groups out there by 2014 because there has never been a Native group on the world stage," Bashara said.

Bashara's goal is for 1,000 people, singers, performers and audience members to perform a snake dance. A common Oneida performances, the Snake Dance  exemplifies the "real meaning of what it is to be Hotinonshonni," Bashara said. Bringing people together to do the dance would be a true embrace of the culture.

Bigger issues underly the goals. Through teaching, Music From Our Culture is "opening up and healing old wounds to make peace with history, and music, the arts, and culture help to bring us together and correct some of the old wrongs done by history, " Bashara said.

"History will never be erased, but it can be corrected."

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