6-year-old attracts attention at gourd dances

By Glenda Rae Davis
Navajo Times

ALBUQUERQUE, May 3, 2012

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(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)

Jacoby Begay, 6, from Window Rock, rattles his gourd as he dances in the gourd dance Saturday at the Gathering of Nations Powwow in Albuquerque.

W ith over 50 gourd dancers in the University of New Mexico Arena and the Wild Band of Comanches drum group at the center, the first session of the 2012 Gathering of Nations Powwow gourd dance commenced Friday, April 27.

Among the dancers was Jacoby Begay of Window Rock. In a category that consists of veterans and elderly men, Jacoby stood out because he is only six years old.

Although he is young, Jacoby's dancing was in harmony with the rest of the dancers in the arena. He knew what he was doing.

His grandmother, Charlene Begay of Window Rock, adopted Jacoby when he was an infant.

When Jacoby was four his other grandmother, Charlene's sister, Loraine Begay, began taking him to gourd dances.

"We were at a gourd dance in Fort Defiance a year and a half ago," said Loraine, of Window Rock. "He was just standing there watching the dancers and I told him to go out there and learn."

Loraine said Jacoby, who is Tsi'nijinii, born for Todich'ii'nii, stood among the men that day and began dancing to the drumbeat. One of the men stood next to Jacoby and began talking to him.

"His name was Alvin Tsosie," said Loraine. "He motioned to me to come over and he told me that he wanted Jacoby to have his gourd. You know, these gourds are expensive, but he just gave it to him."

In the months following, Jacoby received invitations to gourd dances on and near the Navajo Nation.

"They would say, 'Come to this gourd dance, we want him to have something," said Loraine. "That is how he got all his regalia. Everything he has was donated to him."

Jacoby's regalia includes a gourd, a beaded sash, a gourd blanket and an eagle feather.

At a gourd dance in Farmington, Jacoby was given his eagle feather by Harry James of Talihina, Okla., as a symbol of his induction into the gourd-dance circle.

"The veterans really take care of him," said Loraine. "That day they blessed him and prayed for him."

When asked who taught him to dance Jacoby thought for a couple of seconds and then responded, "Myself."

Loraine laughed saying, "People really love him. They love shaking his hand."

Shaking hands with all gourd dancers is a custom that accompanies honoring someone during a dance.

Jacoby takes part in as many gourd dances as are allowed by his grandmothers.

"Dancing is fun," said Jacoby with a smile.

The gourd dances were held on both days of the powwow before the grand entries at 7 p.m.

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