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Milwaukee Public Museum hosts dances, presentations for Indigenous Peoples Day

Members of México Indígena perform a dance at the Milwaukee Public Museum to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.
Eddie Morales
Members of México Indígena perform a dance at the Milwaukee Public Museum to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day.

To celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day the Milwaukee Public Museum hosted dance performances and presentations. Wisconsin has officially celebrated the day since 2019.

Jesus Ávila is the founder of dance troupe México Indígena.

"We are here to represent the Indigenous people of the Americas and I’m talking about the whole continent," said Ávila. "These are actual Native American dances of the Mechika nation. These are people, a nation, best known as the Aztecs or the Nahuatls people."

 Ávila said he started the group in 1972 at age 13. He remembers telling his mother he felt homesick. "For years, I kept telling my mom that I wanted to go back to my homeland, Mexico. She says to me all the time ‘Mijo, Mexico is not necessarily over there — it’s in here,'" said Ávila.

The performance had an emotional impact on Adriana Vázquez, director of education at MPM, because of her own Indigenous heritage.

"I may have shed a tear when I was watching the performances," she said. "I think that the fact that Wisconsin has chosen to celebrate Indigenous peoples on this day, and that the Milwaukee Public Museum is supportive and in a position to do that, is just really heartwarming."

The Ho-Chunk drum group Little Priest Singers demonstrated dances at the event. Wisconsin has 11 federally recognized tribes. Shyla Kinhal and Ira Rigaud watched the performance with their two daughters.

"Our girls are really young, they’re 4 and 7," Kinhal said. "But I think even from an early age, just trying to figure out developmentally appropriate ways to help them understand the history of our country and why days like these are important and really matter to preserve legacy."

Rigaud was one of several guests that participated in the dances.

"I learn something every time too," added Rigaud. "It’s new for me as well — it’s great."

In addition to the performances, museum staff showcased two new, permanent Indigenous exhibits including one that displays artifacts found in Milwaukee County.

Eddie is a WUWM news reporter.