Recording artist Ryon Polequaptewa, at left, and seven-time world champion hoop dancer Derrick Suwaima perform at the Laughlin Library during a program for Native American History Month.


LAUGHLIN — Native American performers Derrick Suwaima and Ryon Polequapterwa brought their special talents and knowledge to the Laughlin Library for a Native American dance and music presentation for the library’s National Native American Heritage Month observance.

Suwaima, of Hopi and Choctaw heritage, is a seven-time world champion hoop dancer and is reportedly the only performer to use five hoops in his performances and competitions.

Polequaptewa, a Hopi musician and singer, is one of the more revered musicians among Native Americans and has a recording label, Invincible Recordings.

Suwaima performed several dances, explaining the meaning before each of them, and culminated his performance with his five-hoop finale, combination of complexity and artistry.

Polequaptewa showed — and then demonstrated — his Native American flute and drum. He said the flute is made from cedar wood, a tree found in abundance on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona.

The drum is made from “three peoples” — two four-legged “peoples” being deer and cow for the skins on the drum and “tree people” for the wood that comprises the drum itself.

Polequaptewa said he is a self-taught musician — he does not write nor read music to perform.

The two took turns not only performing — separately and together — but also sharing stories, historical facts and a few jokes with the receptive audience. They concentrated on the uses of and meanings of the dances and music they performed.

The performance included a group-participation dance; Suwaima used his five hoops to form a globe, representing the Earth, and the audience members were asked to dance in a circle around it. Polequaptewa sang and played the music to it, with a chant of “We are dancing around the world.”

The two spent a short time answering questions and signing autographs before departing. Before they left, Polequaptewa implored the audience members to “be Hopi.”

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