Sharing cultures
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 5, 2006

Exchange a 2-way street for hoops dancers

Melissa Navas


Sure meeting the Queen of England is a big deal. What could be more exciting?

Tony Duncan, a four-time world champion teen hoop dancer, has a couple of ideas.The Scottsdale resident embarks today on a monthlong tour of the United Kingdom with six family members, otherwise known as the Yellow Bird Indian Dancers.

The family will perform Native American songs, stories and hoop dances at various stops, one perhaps for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Still, Duncan said he most looks forward to learning about the English culture during his first trip to the British Isles.

"We get to see a lot of other cultures," he said. "We get to see how unique they are."

But cultural exchange won't be a one-way street.

Five Duncan children, ages 7 to 23, and their parents, Ken and Doreen, say they want to use this trip to educate Europeans about Native American culture, which many will encounter for the first time.

The family has performed across the globe for dignitaries, presidents and royal families, and is sometimes sponsored by the U.S. State Department.

This time, several European theater groups invited the family to perform.

'Indigenous Warriors'
While in London for a week, the family will be part of a show called the Indigenous Warriors of the World,which also features Zulu tribe members from Africa. The family tour includes visits to Wales and Scotland.

One purpose of the trip is to give the world a broader sense of what Americans are all about, especially since the country is at war in Iraq, said Ken Duncan, a San Carlos Apache.

"We are trying to show the world that we are a variety of people and not to just think of all Americans as soldiers," he said.

Doreen Duncan, who is Arikara, Hidatsa and Mandan, said she also wants to dispel other misconceptions.

"They have some sort of romantic view of native people," she said. "Our traditions are important to us, but we live in regular housing and we don't live in teepees, still. I guess cowboys and Indians is something they associate America with."

Living in castles
Karl Duncan, 21, said he enjoys the downtime between shows. While on summer break from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, the museum studies major said he can't wait to see the British Museum's exhibits.

He said his siblings are lucky for being able to see the world at a young age.

"You're not one-sided," Karl Duncan said. "You see other ways culturally.
The way people eat different foods, talk different languages."

Ken Duncan says he is thankful to be able to take his family on the trip.
The memories are what stay with him longest, including one of his favorites about a stay near Vienna, where the family lived in a castle for a month.

"One day my wife said, 'I'm taking my kids back to the castle,' " he said.
"I asked her if she could repeat that because I didn't think I'd ever hear it again."