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Gilbert Blacksmith collaborating with American Indian Contemporary Arts

Award: $35,000 Traditional Arts grant awarded in 2001

Completed: Fall 2003

Fancy dancer Gilbert Blacksmith of Medicine Warrior Dancers, Michael Bellanger of All Nations Drum, and American Indian Contemporary Arts collaborated to help young Native Americans prepare traditional regalia and instruments and master traditional dances for performances at pow-wows and other community events. During and after the grant period, Blacksmith hosted weekly regalia-making sessions at the Intertribal Friendship House in Oakland. The project culminated with performances at an East Bay pow-wow and in Washington D.C. at a gathering of dancers in memory of a peer who had died on the dance floor. The group also was featured on Comcast Cable television.

The Native American population in Oakland comprises members of multiple tribes from across the United States. The artists sought to connect 10-15 adults and youth with features of the regalia from their specific tribal heritage.

Gilbert Blacksmith, a member of the Sicangu Lakota tribe, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from South Dakota in 1997. He had begun fancy dancing at age four with his uncles, brothers, and cousins. Blacksmith has won numerous championships in fancy dancing and has participated in major pow-wows across the United States. He began offering weekly dance activities at Oakland’s Intertribal Friendship House in 1999.  The Creative Work Fund grant enabled him to build upon this volunteer effort—including Bellanger’s assistance to offer both regalia and drum making and sharing traditional songs.

Established in 1983, American Indian Contemporary Arts was a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of contemporary native artists and art forms. In 1999 it lost its exhibition space in San Francisco and subsequently worked with Bay Area native artists on community projects.