PHOTOS | Hawaiian and Native American dancers meet in Minneapolis for a cultural exchange


When I was asked to cover a cultural exchange between visiting Hawaiians and local Native Americans, I thought, “this could be interesting.” I was expecting a performance, but what I saw was a powerful sharing of spiritual, cultural, and historical experience. The Halau Kiawekupono O Ka Ua, from O’ahu, Hawaii were at Carlton College in Northfield for the week of April 4-8 for classes and a performance. They visited native Minnesotans from “the very very big island of North America” at the Minneapolis American Indian Center on April 5 to share music and dance.

Minneapolis American Indian Center
The event was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It was completely unscripted and informal. This informality allowed everyone to take the time to appreciate each other’s contributions rather than put on a show for the audience. Both groups used dance, drum, and voice, but there were marked differences in their use. Ringing Shield Singers, a Native American drum circle, started off the exchange and were soon joined by a grass dancer with clothing that was fringed to mimic grass, then by two men’s traditional dancers. Their music and dance was loud, rhythmic, and almost trance-like as the dancers cut circuitous paths on the floor of the gymnasium. The Hawaiians’ music was quieter and more formally choreographed, with the dancers standing and moving in a single shoulder-to-shoulder line.

Grass Dancer

Hawaiian Hulu

The event ended with a large friendship dance. I was asked whether I wanted to share in the circle, but I felt I could best share by taking these pictures that open the event to a wider audience.

Friendship Dance

A greeting of First Nations:
Native Americans Greet Native Hawaiians

Ringing Shield Singers:

Rain Shield Native American Drum Circle

Men’s traditional dance:

Native American Men's Traditional Dance

Mourning the extinction of native birds due to European hunting:

Native Hawaiian Dance Mourning The Extinction of Local Bird Species by European Hunting


CORRECTION 4/11/2012: The name of the Native American drum circle is Ringing Shield Singers.

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