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“Culture as Prevention”: The Woodland Dance Troupe

At the Woodland Boys & Girls Club in Neopit, Wisconsin, cultural programming is the glue that holds Club and community members together. From traditional prayers at meal time to a newly formed dance troupe, the Club is committed to preserving Menominee culture and tradition. The dance troupe formed shortly after the Club’s grand opening in May 2015, when traditional singer and elder Myron Pyawasit brought up the idea to the Club’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ron Corn. They believed bringing together adults and youth with previous dance experience would be a great way to not only bring Menominee culture to the Club, but also to get cultural programming off to a successful start. After weeks of planning and receiving financial support from the Wisconsin Art Board Woodland Indian Art Initiative, Pyawasit, along with Dewey Thunder (Club Youth Development Specialist) and Corn began leading a group of about 20 dancers and four singers on a weekly basis, teaching them songs and dances that have been passed down for hundreds of years. Eventually, when the troupe’s practice and performance routines become more established, they will have the capacity to teach in greater numbers to anyone who is interested.

It should come as no surprise that immersing youth in their culture leads to a stronger sense of self, personal identity, and increased self-esteem. Being able to provide local youth with language, traditional songs, games, meals, and art is something that Woodland Boys & Girls Club staff takes extreme pride in. The dance troupe in particular, has played an essential role in getting youth to think about the importance of carrying on their cultural traditions, and instilling pride in Club members.

“The connection to who they are as Omaeqnomaenwuk is critical to their development as good, caring human beings and helping to build that resiliency to negative behaviors…I think the research is also starting to show the impact of cultural programming on our youth in today’s society…I will say that my personal experiences and what I see in our community speaks volumes to the importance of culture to every generation of our people,” explains Corn. Thunder is credited for raising awareness around the concept of “culture is prevention”.

To learn more about the Club’s cultural programming, visit their website at: http://www.menomineebgc.org

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