The Ani-Kuwih, or Mulberry, Dancers perform traditional Cherokee dances, demonstrate blowguns, and can give Cherokee language lessons. A group of about ten children, ages 5-12, these dancers can perform for large or small audiences or any age. For the past three years, these children have learned dances, language, and more under the guidance of Myrtle Driver, Tribal Cultural Traditionalist in the Office of Cultural Resources of the Eastern Band.
“They are learning by living,” Driver says. In order to stay in the group, children must keep up their grades, have good behavior in school, and perform community service such as mowing yards or stacking wood for elders. They participate in traditional ceremonies and discuss healthy alternatives to drug and alcohol abuse. “Instead of turning to alcohol and drugs, we say, ‘Let’s go dance at the Tsali Manor [a community center for the elderly in Cherokee].”
Myrtle Driver was born and raised on the Qualla Boundary. She attended local schools until eighth grade, and then was sent to boarding schools at Alexander Mills, Crossnore, and finally the Haskell Institute. She learned to dance from her mother and grandmother, who used to dance with the Big Cove Traditional Dancers under the direction of Amaneet Sequoyah. As a young woman she participated in the First Americans, Inc., a dance group that opened Bicentennial ceremonies in 1976 all over the east coast, from Philadelphia to Florida. Driver went back to school at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, studying anthropology and museum science. She was the recipient of an Honorary Fellowship to the Newberry Library and did an internship in Natural History with the Smithsonian Institution.
The Ani-Kuwih Dancers have performed for festivals, school groups, colleges, and universities including Rhinehart College and University of North Carolina at Greensboro. They will perform for groups of any size, and are available to travel on weekends. Contact Myrtle Driver to discuss performance schedules, performance fees and travel.