Lakota students learn nuances of the hoop dance


Last Updated: 10 years

The horizon line is the circle of life. Mother Earth and Father Sky meet at the horizon line. The hoops used in the Lakota hoop dance represent, among other things, the horizon line, the circle of life.


Master hoop dancer Dallas Chief Eagle is teaching the class.

Students at the SonShine Patch, Roncalli Primary School’s afterschool and summer program, have been learning the nuances of the Lakota hoop dance from master hoop dancer Dallas Chief Eagle.

He’s at Roncalli through Thursday, teaching students about American Indian culture and the hoop dance. The week culminates with a performance for friends and family on Thursday.

Chief Eagle, an art teacher from Martin, is in Aberdeen through a South Dakota Arts Council grant with the Artists in Schools and Communities program. This is the first time SonShine Patch has taken advantage of the opportunity, program director Bridget Heier said.

“It was one of the programs that got the kids up and moving, and I thought that was important for summer,” Heier said. “I also just thought it would be good to incorporate that cultural awareness into the program.”

On Tuesday afternoon, students rushed into the gym at Roncalli Primary, ready to hear more of Chief Eagle’s stories and work on their hoop-dancing techniques. Chief Eagle had given the children homework on Monday, their first day of hoop dancing. They needed to show an adult the horizon line and the circle it makes and write down what their reaction was. They have until Thursday to complete the task.

Rhiannon McKibbon, 9, had yet to complete her assignment.

“I liked spinning the hoop around our arm; I think I did pretty good at that,” said Rhiannon.

After the first day, the students had varying levels of skills, and some got frustrated when their friends could complete a task and they couldn’t, Heier said.

Some students were nervous before Tuesday’s session about Thursday’s recital.

“I think it will be fun to say, ‘Hey, Mom and Dad, look at what I learned,’” said Heier, who reported older kids seemed to be enjoying it more after the first day, mostly because they grasp the skills better.

“We throw them up, and we make an arrow,” said 5-year-old Kyley Wirebaugh, describing the process of throwing a hoop up in the air and catching it with their bodies.

“I did stuff with hula hoops, and I did a lot of tricks with them,” 7-year-old Quin Berner said of the Lakota dancing hoops, that were similar in size to a hula hoop, but constructed differently. The Lakota hoops are more flexible and many of Chief Eagle’s hoops had a grippy coat of tape.

Jordan Grieben got the chance to sit in the middle of a hoop and pretend to be a bird laying eggs. Jordan and his friend Caden Shelton enjoyed Chief Eagle’s stories, but thought the stories were somewhat sad.