- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Sandi Iron Cloud’s son said to her recently, “When you have cowboys, you have to have Indians, too.”

And Cheyenne Frontier Days organizers realized that after holding the very first event back in 1897.

“What was missing was the Native American aspect of the West,” CFD Indians Committee chairwoman Andrea Allen said.

“They’re just part of the Western story.”

The Indians Committee is tasked with taking care of the Indian Village located in the southeast corner of Frontier Park, which includes building and maintaining the seating, fence and vendor booths, reported the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (https://bit.ly/2ar5JMw).

The committee also organizes educational events to take place in the village, such as talks from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the State Museum, and works with the Cheyenne Kiwanis Club to put on the free pancake breakfasts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at the Cheyenne Depot Plaza, that feature Native American dancers.

The Indian Village offers free crafts for kids as well.

“Every morning, there’s something for kids in the village,” said Allen, who has been involved with the committee since moving to Cheyenne in 2001.

This is the 10th year Iron Cloud and her family participated in the festivities and cultural performances offered at the Indian Village. Village admission and activities are free.

Iron Cloud shared her culture with CFD attendees during a storytelling session at the village.

“It’s called storytelling, but it’s really more of a cultural sharing,” Allen explained.

Storytelling takes place at the village every day at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. It is a great opportunity for Frontier Park attendees to step away from the crowds and relax; maybe grab an Indian taco made with traditional fry bread for lunch and peruse Native American handicrafts and jewelry for sale.

“We are just simply everyday people,” Iron Cloud told attendees seated on log benches.

“We love to come here, and we love to come celebrate who we are.”

Iron Cloud, who is of the Northern Arapaho tribe, told the crowd storytelling is an important part of Native American culture. It is a way of carrying on cultural traditions and it has many purposes, she explained.

Some stories only can be told at night, Iron Cloud said.

Stories were used as a means of survival in winter to calm hungry children, and also to teach children lessons about life, as well as teach them how to be good listeners, Iron Cloud said, explaining that quiet children meant enemy scouts could be heard far away on the prairie.

Iron Cloud said some stories also feature “Indian humor.”

“We tease each other,” she said, adding that her husband, who is of the Oglala Lakota tribe, often gets teased for that.

“You use that humor in order to survive in today’s world as well,” Iron Cloud continued, saying that humor is a way to cope with life’s hardships.

“Laughter is part of healing,” she said. “Song and dance are part of healing.”

Iron Cloud also addressed Native American history with the crowd.

“We are not victims,” she said. “We are resilient people who have survived.”

And she said her people take pride in who they are.

“We are survivors and we celebrate - we honor our lives through our songs and our dances,” she said.

Native American dances take place at 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. each day in the Indian Village, and often are interactive learning experiences for attendees.

Iron Cloud said the singers who perform in the village sing more than 800 songs during CFD.

“We enhance the history of the Cheyenne Frontier Days,” she said.

Iron Cloud encouraged people to not be afraid to approach the singers, dancers and storytellers with questions after their performances.

“There aren’t any stupid questions,” she said. “We’re here to share, we’re here to educate.”

The village also features flute players at 2 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. each day and a traditional Pow Wow at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday.

The teepees in the village are where the Indian Village performers live during the 10-day event.

This year, Iron Cloud said there are about 48 people from four families participating.

“We bring our air mattresses, we bring our electrical cords, we bring our fans and our air conditioners, and some even bring TVs,” she said in an interview after her storytelling session. “It’s our home away from home.”

“We’re used to it, and it’s part of our lives,” Iron Cloud continued. “We don’t see it as a hindrance, or we don’t see it as roughin’ it. It’s part of everyday life.”

And the kids love it.

“They love playing, they love going to the carnival, they love the dancing,” Iron Cloud said. “They look forward to it every year. Some of our kids grew up here - we’ve been here 10 years. It’s something they look forward to.”

Iron Cloud said the Indian Village and Native American participation in CFD adds to the Western experience.

“For me, it enhances the Western flavor of the theme of Cheyenne Frontier Days in a positive sense,” she said.

“This was our homeland, you know, we were the first cowboys.”

New to the village this year is some shade that’s been installed over part of arena seating, making the area more appealing for story time in the afternoon, Allen said.

Also new this year is an enhanced experience in the educational teepee in the village.

Allen said the teepee, which used to be empty, now features Native American artifacts and someone to talk to who can answer questions about how Native Americans lived.


Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, https://www.wyomingnews.com

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