Shanren in Sisseton, SD

By Shigeyo Henriquez

Last week, Shanren hosted a unique exchange in Sisseton and the surrounding area. In this post road manager Shigeyo Henriquez shares photos and stories from their week in South Dakota.

We arrived at the Dakota Magic Casino & Resort, our home during the residency in Sisseton, on the afternoon of Super Bowl Sunday. The lobby was filled with visitors! Shortly after we settled into our rooms, we were invited to a reception where we were greeted by several Native Americans of the Dakota people—Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate. One man played a drum while another sang a welcome song. Immediately Shanren felt so at home.

Our first workshop was at Sisseton Wahpeton College for college students, young children from a tribal school, and some adults.

Fu Te let this student play his qinqin. He managed to play pretty well!

The second workshop of the day was an exchange of music with local musicians. Among the local musicians was Bryan Akipa, a legendary flute maker and player. He brought his flutes and played, and the sounds were very spiritual and peaceful. We all closed our eyes and imagined the world to be free from violence and suffering. Fu Te then played the tu liang, a flute from the Wa people of China that is used to communicate with ancestors. It sounds very similar to Native American flutes, and Bryan Akipa listened to this Wa flute with his eyes closed.

Our second day was at Sisseton Wahpeton High School. The first class was going to be an exchange with half native drumming and dance and half Shanren’s music, but instead we asked the native students to drum and dance for the whole hour. They proudly drummed, danced, and shared their culture. Two members of Shanren were invited to participate in the drum circle. Both Shanren and our Native American friends found many similarities in their music and culture.

Shanren posed with dancers from the school.

Shanren member A Lao tried Bryan Akipa’s flute.

Shanren is now getting used to eating school lunches, and they joined the students at Sisseton High School.

We also hosted workshops for elementary school students from Sisseton, New Effington, and Browns Valley. At the beginning of the “Left Foot Dance of the Yi,” Fu Te acts as a dragon that is about to fall into a hole.

As the story of the “Left Foot Dance of the Yi” continues, the Yi people cover the dragon’s hole with the rocks and dirt to defeat the dragon. The Yi people celebrate this story each year at an event called the Torch Festival. Students at Wilmot School also join in the “Left Foot Dance of the Yi.”

Later, Shanren enjoyed a potluck dinner with hosts Jane and John Rasmussen from the Sisseton Arts Council. Eastern and Western foods met at this table with smoked turkey, spicy mushrooms, quinoa salad, pork rib soup, wild rice, cold tofu, and much more.

Shanren’s concert in Sisseton had record-breaking attendance! We were all very happy.
Thank you to all the volunteers for making the concert such a success! Shanren posed with some of the volunteers, holding up the symbol for the band—three fingers that imitate the first Chinese character in the band’s name: 山人 or “Shanren.”

After the concert, Jane and John hosted another party. We were going to stop by for a little while, but we ended up staying until 1 o’clock in the morning.

We spent our day off at the lake house of Jane and John. Jane’s brother, Bill, let the band members ride his snowmobile! They were just like kids with sweet candies.

Later the group tried some ice fishing. The best time to catch fish is at sunset. Sam, Shanren’s interpreter and manager, dressed warmly and waited patiently for the fish line to pull.

He caught a beautiful walleye, and we all hoped that he would catch enough for dinner!

Our week in the Sisseton area ended with a candle-lit dinner at the cabin of Jane’s brother, Bill. Warm soup and healthy bread were the perfect nutritious food after playing on the icy lake.


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