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Tuesday, Sep 24th

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Husband-wife duo share Native American cultures

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Secret to keeping their marriage alive

At this year’s Gallup Summer Nightly Indian Dances there’s a couple who brings their own flute, musical group, dances and songs, and offers the audience a taste of two tribes. Meet Norman and Ramona Roach.

Norman is Lakota Sioux and Ramona is Diné. They each perform songs and dances that originate from their native tribes. Both are educators and both have performed at the nightly dances for years.  Norman and Ramona have been married for 38 years. Together they have performed at countless shows.

Norman Roach has been dancing all his life starting out in Cortez, Colo. He performed traditional pow wow dances and the hoop dance. But his specialty is serenading the audience with his mesmerizing flute. When he’s not performing, he is teaching.  Norman Roach has been teaching for 20 years and is currently at the Six Directions Indigenous School in Gallup.

“I enjoy performing at pow wows all over the country,” he says. “I like sharing my culture and educating them on the dances/songs.”

When he’s not performing on the pow wow circuit, you’ll find him and Ramona at the summer dances having fun. Ramona got into dancing when she met Norman. She performs the fancy shawl dance, jingle dress, and Northern Traditional dances, and sings traditional Diné songs. She remembers watching other women dance and often wished that she could do the same.

“One day my husband bought me some items, and that’s when it all began.” She said.

This year makes it 38 years of dancing with her husband and her smile shows it. They take turns at the microphone, introducing the dances they perform. Often you can hear them joke about certain things in their marriage, which adds a little lighthearted fun. Ramona is a third grade teacher, currently at Bread Springs school.

“I often see some of my students come to the nightly dances and [they are] amazed at seeing their teacher perform (laughing). Sometimes I’ll even perform for the school.”

Ramona Roach says their songs and dances are reflected back to them as pride in the culture, when audiences watch them perform. “A lot of people hold their hearts and say how it makes them feel so good. Most of the Native Americans are really proud of where they come from. That’s what I see,” she said.

FAMILY AFFAIR

When the Roaches perform, they often invite friends and family to join them at the nightly dances. One friend is Archie Whitegoat. Whitegoat, who is Diné, also attends and performs the prairie chicken dance at various pow wows. Dancing since he was three-years-old, he says he primarily competes in pow wows here in the Southwest. At other times he enjoys dancing at the summer dances.

“I’ve been dancing here at the summer dances for the past four years and it’s pretty fun,” said Whitegoat.

The Roaches used to perform to pre-recorded pow wow music, but now they have their friends, the Krazy Kreek Singers play all the music. The drum group comes from the surrounding area and sings at various pow wows as well. You can often hear approving war cries coming from the audience as the drum group sings for the Roach family and their friends.

When you get the opportunity to see the Roaches, you can truly see that they love what they do as husband and wife. Many married couples have their own secret at keeping their marriage alive and going.  For the Roaches it’s sharing, performing, and telling others about their culture and the pride of being Native American.

By Dee Velasco
For the Sun