Skip to Content

An Irish Dancing Music Teacher and a Student Teacher Siletz Tribe Activist

Caroline Duggan, 29

Bronx, New York
Music teacher
The Keltic Dreams student Irish dance troupe leader

Were you formally trained in Irish dancing?

Yes, I began at 7, but I gave it up at 15. Only when my students became interested did I become equally fascinated with Irish dance again.

How do your students like learning the moves?

They have a sense of achievement when they see me do very intricate steps and then they can do it, too.

Your students are all Black and Hispanic. How have their cultures merged with the Irish culture?

They gave me a whole new look on my own culture, and now we have fallen in love with it together. It shows the universality and power of Irish culture and its ability to affect people of every background.

Have your students taught you any of their latest dance moves?

Totally—a whole new hip-hop and salsa routine. I incorporate their cultures into our dance routines, too, making our performances unique, creating a feeling that we did this together.

Tell us about the fame that's come for the troupe.

We performed for the president of Ireland last year and on one of Ireland's top TV shows The Late Late Show. One of the greatest honors was to have the producer of Riverdance follow us for a year to document our story in a film titled A Bronx Dream.

If you could be a professional dancer what kind would you want to be?

Oh, in a second I would want to be in a Riverdance show or some popular Broadway Irish dance show.

Tiffany (Stuart) Wisdom, 23

Kansas City, Kansas
NEA-Student Program member
Siletz Tribe activist

How did you get involved with your tribal activity?

Every summer I visited my mother's family in Siletz, Kansas. On the reservation I learned traditional and contemporary native arts. My parents took me to powwows in Kansas and I learned from other tribal people about their traditions and beliefs.

What is one tribal ritual you perform every day?

I pray every day.

What is your tribe known for?

Basket making. I hear stories of my great grandma making baskets. My great aunt is known for her baskets in many Native basket books. My mother started teaching others at the Siletz Tribal Culture Camp, and this is where I learned how to make baskets.

Do you teach as well?

Yes, at the camp I've taught people how to make dentalian shell necklaces, beadwork, shawls for powwows, and shell keychains. Also, I teach feather dancing and powwow dancing.

What's your favorite tribal cuisine?

Smoked salmon. At the annual Siletz powwow, the tribe feeds everyone a smoked salmon dinner, cooked over a pit on sticks just like our ancestors did for hundreds of years.

Any misconceptions about Native Americans that you'd like to clarify?

That everyone powwows. There are so many tribes for which powwows are not traditional. Also, the stereotype of what a Native should look like—long black hair and dark skin. There are Siletz tribal members of all different shapes, sizes, and colors.

Why did you decide to join NEA?

I knew that being part of a professional organization would be beneficial to a future teacher.

Published in:

Published In