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Cherokee Powwow Dancer Keeps Culture Alive

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2003 – Cherii Robison dresses up in American Indian regalia and travels around dancing in powwows to keep her culture alive.

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Cherii Robison, a descendant of the Cherokee Indian Nation, said she travels around dancing in powwows to keep her culture alive. The Cherokee descendant took part in a powwow recently at Clearwater Middle School in Edgewater, Md. Photo by Rudi Williams

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The Cherokee descendant said in the past it wasn't acceptable for Indians to be themselves. Consequently, many didn't pass on their culture to younger generations.

"But you wake up one day and find out that you're multi- cultured and have to find where you fit in," said Robison, an artist who owns an art studio in Cumberland, Md. "I dance in every powwow I can, because that's when I can be myself. I'm at home when I'm in regalia dancing. I'm at home when I'm in the arena with my own people doing the things that our tribes did many, many years ago.

It's difficult to explain how Indians feel when they're dancing in the "sacred ring" of powwows, she said. "Those of us who stay in the ring want to pass the culture," Robison noted. "We want to teach the young. We learned from the culture how to be ourselves and how to be good to other people. We learned how to be the best we could be for the creator."

Robison noted that nine years ago she had to use a walker and oxygen tank, but said she was "healed in the sacred dancing ring."

"I know the creator heals in that sacred ring," Robison said. "It's a sacred ring not a game. And we don't dress up like Halloween like we're accused of. It's real. It's people being themselves. They're doing it because they want to pass their culture -- share it with others."

Robison said she's a member of the American Metis Aboriginal Association. Metis are mostly people of mixed blood -- mixed tribes or mixed white or black blood, she noted.

"Metis are also people who have Native American hearts, but most of us have mixed blood," she said. "But we're not fully recognized by other tribes. I'm recognized by the Cherokee now because I've been on the powwow circuit for about nine years."

Robison said her father, who died last April, was of Cherokee descent, but he didn't fully understand the culture. "But he respected our culture," she noted.

"My father was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War and he had two Purple Hearts," Robison noted. "We have to be thankful for the veterans because they keep our land free. We probably respect veterans more than anybody they're our warriors!"

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCherii Robison, right, dances in the American Indian Intertribal Cultural Organization Second Annual Veterans Powwow celebration, held recently at Central Middle School in Edgewater, Md. She said she travels around dancing in powwows to keep her culture alive. Photo by Rudi Williams   
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