FARGO — Doreen and Ken Duncan and their eight kids have performed Native American dances across the world, and now they’re bringing their internationally renowned group to Fargo this weekend for the fourth annual Crossroads Powwow.
The family’s dance group, Yellow Bird Productions, started 30 years ago in Arizona. Since then, her kids have become champion-level hoop dancers, and the U.S. State Department has sent the group to about 40 countries to perform as “goodwill ambassadors” for Native American people, said Doreen, who is from the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation in western North Dakota.
“Our passion really is Native American culture, promoting a positive image of our people,” Doreen said.
Now for the first time, Doreen, her husband, Ken, and two of their sons, Talon and Sky, will be performing at the Crossroads Powwow — an event open to the public — Oct. 5-6 at Scheels Arena. Guy Fox, one of the event organizers, said the powwow is focused on connecting with friends, family, and the community.
Doreen said Yellow Bird Productions, named after her mother’s side of the family, will have an area at the arena as well, where they can answer questions about indigenous culture. She invited the community to “come and learn about Native American culture” at the powwow.
Before starting the dance group, Doreen met Ken at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, N.M., formerly a boarding school, where she focused on museum studies. Ken, a member of the Apache Tribe, focused on art. Doreen went on to earn her college degree in museum studies at Arizona State University and become a museum director.
But she said the couple sought to “promote positive aspects of Native American culture” through song and dance, so they started performing powwow dances at small festivals. They moved their way up to performances at the Museum of the American Indian in New York City and in Washington, D.C. Then, they started traveling the world to perform.
One of her sons, Kevin, makes most of the traditional regalia for the performances.
“He’s an artist when it comes to making regalia,” Doreen said. Over the years, the group has been comprised mainly of her family, but often they will add other dancers and singers they’ve met, depending on the event.
More than a display of culture, Doreen said her family’s dance group has displayed the “strength of Native American families.”
“I think we were supposed to do this,” she said. “It’s not what we planned to do, but it kind of turned out this way — it worked out for us to do this."