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Cultural heritage on display

Posted: Monday, Feb 4th, 2013

Karen youth performed their traditional “Don Dance” for the attendees of the Community Cultural Fair on Saturday at the Huron Mall. And next, Karen dancers perform a bamboo dance during Saturday’s Cultural Fair held at the Huron Mall. The dancers move between the bamboo chutes as they are moved through the dancers’ area. The dancers used PVC pipe to simulate the bamboo chutes. PHOTOS BY KARA GUTORMSON/PLAINSMAN

HURON —The fourth annual Huron Community Cultural Fair was held Saturday, and people enjoyed reading the students’ exhibits, hearing the personal stories and watching the cultural dancers perform.

Dah Dah Po was one of the students who gave his personal story about coming to the U.S. Po, who has lived in Huron for the past seven years, said his family initially moved to St. Paul, Minn. “But it was hard for my parents to find work,” he said. “So we moved to South Dakota.”

Po said he is proud to be the first member of his family graduating from American high school. Po graduates this year and said he will play soccer for Jamestown College in North Dakota.

U Ronald and his wife, Naw Rowena were also at the fair. Naw worked selling traditional Karen food. Ronald said before coming to Huron, he worked for the American embassy in Burma for 15 years, and that was how he attained a visa to come to the United States. “We wanted to come to the United States because in Burma.

It’s very hard to live. The cost of living and what you earn are not equal, it’s very hard.”

When Ronald and Rowena first came to the U.S. from Burma, they lived in Arizona for three years. “Then we moved to Kansas, and we lived there for two years and then California for a few months,” he said. “But when we came to Huron in 2010. The first thing we realized was that it gets really cold here,” he said, laughing. “Everybody laughs at me when I say that, but it’s true. My wife couldn’t stand the heat in Arizona, she kept getting burned by the sun. But now we are in South Dakota, where that isn’t as much of a problem.”

Ronald explained that there are two main branches of Karen, the Sgaw Karen and the Pwo Karen. “You can’t tell by just looking at them if they are Sgaw or Pwo,” he said.

Ronald and Rowena became U.S. citizens in 2010. They said that they studied 100 questions for the test, but only 10 were picked at random. Rowena said it wasn’t that hard, because she learned some of it in school in Burma. “We learn about U.S. history in school,” she said. “The past presidents — Abraham Lincoln and George Washington — we learn about them.”

Four-year Huron resident May Htoo taught a group of 24 Huron High School students how to do the traditional Karen bamboo dance. Htoo lived in St. Paul, Minn., before coming to Huron.

“We practiced for about two weeks,” she said. Htoo said the bamboo dance is a tradition in Burma, where she is originally from. “We don’t have bamboo here, so we had to use (PVC) pipe,” she said.

Dawn Marshall manned a booth at the fair and talked about her job as a migrant home liaison for the Huron School District. Marshall started working as a home liaison nine years ago. “That was when we first started having more of the Hispanic culture coming into the district,” she said. Her broader job definition is “helping families stay connected with the school.”

Marshall said she enjoys watching the dancers perform. “I think they are extraordinary. all of the work they put into their dances, they do a really nice job.”

Rebekah Murfield was at the event for the first time. Murfield is a high school ESL teacher and said she was proud of the excellent job her students did performing, and all the effort they put into their displays.

David and Marcia Brown were first-timers to the Community Cultural Fair this year. Their eighth grade son, Micah, was partnered with Trey Litwiller to perform a trumpet duet.

David and Marcia both commented that they enjoyed watching their son’s performance and also the cultural dancers.

“The dancers were very good,” said David. “If more people want to learn about these cultures, they need to get out to these events,” said Marcia. “And look at the exhibits, read some of the stuff they say. That’s the only way they are going to learn more. And they need to meet some of the new people in the community.”

For the complete article see the 02-03-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 02-03-2013 paper.

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