By Kelsey Kennedy
Dazzling colors, swirling flutes and Native American dance took over the national convention stage after the last opening session on Wednesday night. The award-winning Native American musical group Brulé performed while dressed in traditional regalia. For Paul LaRouche, a member of the Lower Brule Sioux tribe and the founder of Brulé, their performance at national convention was “combination outreach, combination education and part rock concert.”
While the performance was entertaining for the audience, it was not without purpose. “It is our hope that they’ll walk away with a new perception of Native America,” LaRouche said. “There are so many misconceptions about the culture, even to this day.”
LaRouche and Brulé have performed the world over, bringing their culture and a message of peace to audiences.
While national convention may not be the Peace Palace in the Netherlands, where Brulé performed in 2000, the group sees the visit as an opportunity to help create change for Native Americans involved in agriculture.
LaRouche said, “We couldn’t be more thrilled, and there couldn’t be a better place to work on an ambassadorship between Native America and mainstream America.” He also hoped it would be a call to action. “I believe that there is something long and lasting that Native America has yet to contribute to FFA and what we would call the agriculture industry.”
Wednesday night’s performance was followed by a blanket presentation the next day. During Thursday’s secondgeneral session, Chief Earl Old Person of the Blackfeet Nation, and a former FFA member, presented ceremonial woolen Pendleton blankets to the National FFA Officers and National FFA Advisor, Dr. Steve Brown. Each blanket featured special designs representing tribes from across the country and was a gesture of respect and unity. Dr. Brown’s blanket will soon be on display at the National FFA Center.
For Chief Old Person, being surrounded by blue jackets was nothing new. He was a member of the Browning, Mont., FFA Chapter in the 1940s and credits FFA with giving him skills to help him in his daily life. “Being a part of the FFA chapter gave me an experience of leadership,” he said. While he learned leadership, he also had the opportunity to meet FFA members from all over the country, and he even played in the Montana FFA band.
“They were rewarding because there was a lot I learned from those activities,” he said. Chief Old Person, who speaks fluent Blackfeet, helped interpret for tribal elders into the 1950s. In 1954 he joined the tribal council and was declared a lifetime chief in 1978.