During their tour this summer, Living Legends performed eleven shows in nine states across the American Midwest. Members of the group performed and served tirelessly, expressing their gratitude for the indigenous cultures, landmarks, and people they met along the way.
Reflecting on the landmarks that house the sculptures “Dignity” in South Dakota and “Keeper of the Plains” in Kansas, Living Legends member Philip Conte, who grew up in the Navajo Nation, says, “[Those places are] sacred for the Native Americans, and . . . I realized that there are people who respect the presence and the culture of the place.”
Wherever they went, Living Legends attracted thousands of people to see their show, Seasons. At the Mid-American All-Indian Center in Wichita, Kansas, the Native American section of the group played drums and sang as they walked through the exhibition. They also did a short performance at the science museum Exploration Place. A representative from the museum commented, “We enjoyed the performance very much and loved seeing the well-made regalia and excellent dancers in production. It was so nice to see young people connecting to indigenous dance and song.”
The focus of the Living Legends tour was to uplift others. In Minneapolis, the group visited Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, where they danced for the children. “There was a girl who was lying on a stretcher and was maybe 5 years old,” says Living Legends member Keilani Clark. “She had just had back surgery, and it was really nice to see her laughing and smiling when the dance was going on.”
Another memorable interaction occurred when the group spent time with students on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. After performing in assemblies at St. Francis Indian School and Todd County High School, the BYU students had time to connect with the youth. “I think it put into perspective for the other sections [of Living Legends] of what natives have suffered and currently are suffering. It was a different atmosphere compared to the other places we had been to . . . but you see the transformation after the shows, the little spark in [the youths’] eyes, a bit of hope,” says member Erin Tapahe. Clark adds, “In the performance, there was the ‘Jingle, Grass’ dance, and it derives from their people. When they heard the music and saw it, they were like, ‘This is us!’ When they see their tribe perform, they feel special.”
While on the reservation, members of Living Legends stayed in dormitories provided by the United Methodist Church’s Tree of Life Ministry. To show gratitude for the hospitality, the BYU students woke up early and spent several hours cleaning the facility. Linda Garriott, executive director of the facility, was grateful for their help and encouraged them to continue planting seeds of hope. “Keep sharing your language, your culture, your faith, and your richness of who you are,” said Garriott. “What you’re doing is no small act. It matters, and it has inspired us.”
While visiting Aberdeen, South Dakota, members from the BYU group worked with the local Boys and Girls Club to help clean and organize their new facility so that it could open within the week. “It was really fun to be able to work on this project and know that the service was bigger than ourselves and it would be impacting so many lives,” says Tapahe.
In a different part of Aberdeen, other group members provided maintenance and scraped the old paint off of a home built in 1909. “At the end, [the owner] opened up to us and told us that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He was so thankful to us because he doesn’t know if he’ll stay alive to take care of his house for his family,” says Conte.
Throughout the tour, each student demonstrated the BYU motto “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.” They also put into practice President Worthen’s message: “Experiential learning can be inspiring learning in both senses of that term. It can both inspire students to deeper learning and be the type of learning that leads to inspiration.”
Living Legends members were inspired by the wisdom and gratitude of the people they encountered. The group came to better understand the purpose of sharing their show and preserving indigenous heritage. “We see many different lives and they are so grateful,” says Tapahe. “One of the biggest things I learned is that gratitude is more than saying thank you.”