Chi-la-i-li Wa-chi-wi brings Native American culture to Cairo by Hana Mostafa, sadig eltigani and thilleli ghezzaz

Facilitator Yasmine Bouguerche briefing Chi-la-i-li Wa-chi-wi before the “Indigenous American Culture and Religions” session. Photo by Hana Mostafa.

Chi-la-i-li Wa-chi-wi said that it is important to transmit Native American culture to the youth. Most of the Native Americans learnt to cook, dance and play flute. Here are Wa-chi-wi’s flutes: each one is a musical key. Photo by Hana Mostafa.

The audience gave full attention to Chi-la-i-li Wa-chi-wi as she was talking about horses. “Native Americans were afraid of horses. When they saw them with Europeans on their back, they thought it was an evil spirit,” she said. Photo by Hana Mostafa

Chi-la-i-li Wa-chi-wi brought in feathers that in Native American culture is used to make their own clothes. The traditional outfit has eagle feathers that one earns through war, battle, acts of courage or merit. Photo by Hana Mostafa.

The Office of International Student Life (ISL) hosted a Native American cultural event featuring Native American Chi-la-i-li Wa-chi-wi on Sunday, October 29 at Mary Cross Lecture Hall in the American University of Cairo (AUC).

Wa-chi-wi discussed everything from how Native Americans are raised to how they were taught to hunt and skin animals.

Chi-la-i-li Wa-chi-wi getting ready to perform the traditional Crow and Blackfoot tribe dance. Every item on the stick comes from an animal she hunted.

Wa-chi-wi started the lecture by explaining what her name means, “My name means white bird dancing and secret star fire dancer,” stated Wa-chi-wi. She is affiliated to Apsaroke Ashalaho Crow and Niitsitapi Siksika Blackfoot tribes, both located around the north western area of Montana’s mountains.

Being a skilled flutist since she was a youth, Wa-chi-wi played a lot of her original work digitally while performing some parts with the flute. “A lot of the young people are into hip hop. They didn’t study their musical heritage,” she said. Wa-chi-wi also performed tribal dances and invited members of the audience to dance.

During the session, Chi-la-i-li Wa-chi-wi performed the flute multiple times. showing us how skilled she has become over the years. she said that to keep them from “dying of boredom,” the Natives learnt to play the flute at a young age.

She brought several Native American dishes for the audience to taste such as the squash and corn dish and the three sisters soup.

Wa-chi-wi stated that her people are humble; they don’t live a lavish life such as modern people live like today. “We don’t use the internet. We barely use electricity,” she asserted.

Later, Wa-chi-wi emphasized that religion is a highly spiritual thing for Native Americans. “We believe there is a spirit in everything we see, hear, smell, taste and feel,” she explained.

According to Wa-chi-wi, there used to be 90 millions tribes on American soil. Now, there are barely 50,000 tribes. This was due to the European genocide as well as deadly diseases. In Montana, there used to be ten reserves of Native Americans, but the number has shrunk to five. “It is thus important to hand the culture to the youth and preserve it,” she asserted.

Wa-chi-wi said that it is hard for Native Americans to “pass the 6th grade.” “ Most of the youth don’t go to school because they don’t want to be white. They don’t want to be what destroyed them,” she clarified.

Nissa Bek, a sophomore in political science, said that she learnt a lot upon attending the event, she thought that there was only one Native American culture. However, she is now introduced to a lot of new things about them as a result of attending the event.

Overall, the lecture gave the audience a glimpse of the different cultures and religions of the Native Americans. Wa-chi-wi was invited as part of the interfaith initiative organized by ISL. “ Her session is an introduction to a serie of interfaith dialogue,” said Yasmine Bouguerche, facilitator of the event.

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