This year, Canada is celebrating 150 years since confederation. The United States is celebrating 241 years of independence. At the same time, both countries recognize and honor the history of the people who originally inhabited the land, long before there was a border between them.
The United States is dedicated to preserving, promoting, and sharing culture Native American culture. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the U.S. Consulate General in Montreal worked together to bring the Sinquah family, a talented group of hoop dancers of Hopi origin, from Arizona to Canada. Through four days of dancing and workshops, the artists shared their history, traditions, and values with a grateful Montreal audience. At the same time, we brought Hopi singer Casper Lomayesva. Casper gave Indigenous students in Canada a positive cultural role model, and spoke to Indigenous artists about intellectual property rights, cultural appropriation, and the marketing of native heritage.
Perhaps the most poignant moment in the cultural exchange was between the Hopi artists and a Montreal museum curator as they discussed an upcoming exhibition about the American West. The curator hopes to recognize and then break down stereotypes of “cowboys and Indians” that still exist. Moontee Sinquah said, “Sometimes people ask to take our picture and they tell us not to smile. They want us to look angry, like in a Western movie.”
The Sinquah family celebrated their talent with workshops, explaining the meaning of the hoop dance and letting children and families try it for themselves. “The hoop dance is a healing dance. It is said that every time a hoop is passed through the body, the ill will have another day to live.” These workshops left an indelible impression on the public, serving to underscore the Department of State’s commitment to social inclusion, sharing cultural heritage, and making people-to-people connections across what we now call borders.
About the Author: Joan Sinclair serves as Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Montreal, Canada.
Editor's Note: This entry is also published on Medium.com/StateDept.