The photo above was taken during the “Eagle Dance” performed by the dancers I featured yesterday. What we saw was a very short version of a ceremony that usually lasts all day. Participants dance to the “Tree of Life” with the intent of manifesting health and prosperity. Ceremonial drums play a hypnotic beat while voices rise in chants possibly calling out a prayer like below:
Eagle fly high
Touch Great Spirit
Share your medicine
Touch me, honor me
So that I may know you too
As you can see, the dancers arms are covered in eagle feathers. Since the eagle is an endangered species, there are very strict laws against the harvesting and possession of eagle feathers. Those laws have specific exceptions for Native Americans so that they may continue their spiritual ceremonies. Only individuals with certifiable Native American ancestry and enrolled in federally recognized tribes are allowed to possess feathers from eagles and other migratory birds.
In addition to the dances, there were cooking demonstrations of some traditional Indian foods. The lady in the small photo is making Piki bread a traditional Hopi dish. It is made from a batter of blue corn meal with a little juniper ash added. The batter is spread on a hot plate in a very thin layer using the fingers. When it is done, the very thin sheet is lifted from the hot plate and rolled into a sort of tube of paper thin bread. If you would like to see a picture of the cooked bread and read a little more about it, click here.
Every time I see this demonstration I wonder how tough your fingers have to be to spread the batter on that hot plate.