The Lightning Boy Foundation brings native hoop dancing to the White House

Nov. 18 (Reuters) – A father-daughter couple from the Lightning Boy Foundation in New Mexico this week performed a hoop dance and drum song for First Lady Jill Biden and about 400 Native Americans from across the country attending the inaugural Native American Heritage reception Month at the White house.

“It was a total honor and we’re honored,” said drummer and vocalist Steve LaRance of Tuesday’s event. “Being invited to the White House is just one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”

After the performance, his daughter, ShanDien LaRance, a master hoop dancer, toured the White House with members of other tribes attending the event.

“You just told me how proud you are of me,” ShanDien LaRance said in an interview. “And I said to them, ‘If you could see my look from the stage, how I’m looking at all 400 of you, just dressed like you’re absolutely indigenous.’ … It was such an unforgettable experience.”

ShanDien LaRance said she left her tires to be displayed in the White House art collection, which “means I left part of the story there. So it’s really a great thing that happened.”

Jill Biden opened the event and took a moment to honor local veterans like Lori Piestewa, a US Army soldier from the Hopi tribe who was killed in Iraq in 2003.

“Lori gave her life for our county, the first woman to die on the front lines in Iraq,” Biden said. “I have seen that Native American military service was not always recognized as it should be. Still, that hasn’t stopped this fellowship from serving at higher rates than any other group.”

President Joe Biden, who was at the G20 summit in Bali earlier this week, was absent.

Both LaRances are involved with the Lightning Boy Foundation, a Pojoaque-based nonprofit that connects young northern New Mexico Native Americans to their culture through hoop dancing. Steve is co-chair of the board of trustees while ShanDien is an educator.

ShanDien LaRance said hoop dancing is what is known as an “intertribal powwow dance” performed by many Indigenous and First Nations people in the United States and Canada.

“It actually originated in New Mexico and started out as a healing ceremony performed by the medicine men,” she said.

Tony White Cloud, a Pueblo Native, revived traditional dance in its contemporary form and became known as the father of modern hoop dancing in the 1990s.

Steve LaRance said before his family came to northern New Mexico about 12 years ago, there were no active hoop dancers in the area. They decided to start the Lightning Boy Foundation to bring the tradition back to the region where it originated while also educating local children about their roots.

Since then, the organization has taught countless children how to hoop dance and sponsored their trips to powwow competitions.