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Workshops & Residencies




Rosalie Jones/Daystar
(Pembina Chippewa)
Founder, Artistic Director,
DAYSTAR: Contemporary Dance-Drama of Indian America


Abstract: A description of the work of Jose Limon with American Indian students at Flandreau Indian School in 1970. This historic event grew out of the collaboration of Juilliard’s Martha Hill with Mrs. Stewart (Lee) Udall and her organization The Center for Arts of Indian America, which was dedicated to enabling native youth to enter the fields of dance and theater. The presentation was illustrated with extant still photographic and audio recordings in the Daystar Archive.




Today I am going to tell you a story. But in order to give you the heart of this story, I must first  tell you three other interconnected stories as the  vessel for the heart of it. The vessel concerns two cultures of people living in two different worlds and the heart of  it is how Jose Limon brought those two worlds together on a fall day in 1969.  My story begins not with Jose Limon in New York City, but in Santa Fe, New Mexico, during my first years as a "movement specialist" at IAIA.

The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) was founded in 1962 through the vision and political acumen of the late Lloyd Kiva New, well-known native textile artist of Scottsdale, Arizona. In its beginnings, IAIA was acknowledged for its innovative inclusion of Indigenous cultural material in the development of a curriculum that was also accredited on the level of the high school diploma preparing students to enter a two-year university degree.  The main thrust of the school in the early 1960’s was the two-and-three dimensional visual arts. However, training in theater arts was very much present, as established by Rolland Meinholtz, a knowledgeable non-native theater professional sympathetic to the cultural and artistic issues involved in an all-native training program. That program included training in acting, voice and movement as well as scriptwriting for the theater. Production values were also native-based, with innovative costuming and set design. Contemporary and traditional music was taught by internationally known pianist/composer Louis Ballard (Cherokee/Quapaw). Instruction in modern dance began with my hiring in 1966, and continued in later years through the work of Barry Lynn and Juan Valenzuela.

It was through the Institute of American Indian Arts that I had the good fortune to meet Mrs. Stewart Udall, the wife of then Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall.  IAIA had hired me to  choreograph an original dance-drama titled  Sipapu: A Drama of Authentic Dance and Chants of Indian America.  The call came from Ronald Meinholtz. He was looking for someone to choreograph a main stage production using native performers - dancers, actors, singers, and musicians – that   would be performed at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Washington, D.C.  Stewart Udall and especially his wife, Lee Udall, were encouraging IAIA to showcase their Indigenous dance and theater talent before a Washington audience of Congressional cabinet members. Funding for the school was the immediate purpose of the project.

Years later, the president of the Institute, Lloyd Kiva New  told me that IAIA had approached Agnes DeMille to choreograph the Washington show, but she declined by saying and I quote: “I wouldn’t touch that with a forty-foot pole!”  I give her credit for that - she realized that there was more than beads and feathers to choreographing an “Indian”, i.e., native production.  I was honored to step in for Ms. DeMille. The production must have been successful, as  IAIA did get its funding and with it,  another guarantee that the vision of the Institute for the education of native youth in the visual and performing arts would continue. 



 The special interest of Lee Udall in the theater and dance training of native young people soon became manifest as a direct outgrowth of her relationship with IAIA. She initiated an innovative  non-profit organization called Center for Arts of Indian America, which heralded such people as Will Rogers Jr., Yeffe Kimball Slatin, Vincent Price and Lloyd H. New on its Board of Directors.  Jose Limon was also listed as a member of the Board.Under its auspices and with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, she was able to offer for close to ten years, full year scholarships to deserving individuals who would study in New York City. The Center for Arts of Indian America was Lee Udall’s passionate idea that talented and deserving individuals should be given the opportunity to train in the "best" of the professional theater and dance schools. Where were the best schools?  On the East Coast, of course.  Why the East Coast?  Because she had made contact with, among others,  Martha Hill. Director of Dance at the Juilliard School in New York city.  And through Martha Hill, it seemed destined that Jose Limon would become a significant part of the project.

Since it was the policy of The Center  to send two persons together to study professionally, the two selections in 1969 were Rosalie Jones and Cordell Morsette.  Mr. Morsette was affiliated with the Lakota tribes of North Dakota and had been a student in the theater program  at IAIA. I had been born on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, and also claimed Pembina Chippewa ancestry. Throughout the summer of 1969, preparations were made on all sides. Lee Udall was concerned that we have all that we needed. Did we have enough clothes? Did we know how to deal with “street life” in New York City? Where would we live to facilitate easy access to the Juilliard school? The International House on Claremont Avenue was the obvious choice for living accommodations, with Juilliard being located, at that time, directly across the street.  It was to be the ideal situation for study and for meeting people from all over the world. 

After placement auditions at Juilliard, we were assigned to a Graham class with Bertram Ross,  ballet class with Alfred Corvino, body work with Lulu  Sweigard  and of course, a class in Limon technique. A class with a company member is one thing, but a private class with Limon himself was something exceptional; we would meet Mr. Limon once a week for a special class in dance composition.

Because there were no other studios available, the three of us would meet in the studio under the Juilliard Theater. However, we met for the first class, as I remember it, in the Juilliard Theater lobby,  complete with upholstered settees, plush carpeting, and low intimate lighting.  It was in keeping with Jose’s life philosophy: do what you need to do to get the work done.  As the weeks went by, we would show our work, fulfilling a different assignment each time. They were studies and improvisations based on the “alphabet of the body”, on the elementary foundations of choreographic structure, rhythms and the use of imagery.  The simple fact of studying with one of the inspired choreographic pioneers of the American modern dance movement was exhilarating and frightening in equal measure, but in the end, Jose was ever supportive of our efforts and gracious in his own unique way.  

During that four month stay in New York City, Lee Udall encouraged Cordell and myself to experience everything we could in professional theater and dance work: Broadway, off-Broadway, symphony orchestras, opera, ballet, modern dance. In turn,  Martha Hill encouraged us to attend any and all professional rehearsals taking place at Juilliard.  Needless to say, it was a revelation to watch Jose work with his dancers in the Jose Limon Company, developing choreography on-the-spot or rehearsing a given choreography.  We are all aware of Jose Limon's commitment to his work and his passion for its meaning, but he was also the “gentleman choreographer” who cared for his dancers as persons, recognizing their individuality in expressing an artistic idea.

In the background, Lee Udall had been soliciting across Indian Country for an institution that might be interested in having two young Native Americans to teach theater and dance for a year. It was part of our contract with the Center for Arts of Indian America that we spend one year teaching “in the field”.  It is supremely interesting that Flandreau Indian High School in South Dakota, responded.  And here begins my second story: why Flandreau Indian School in Yankton and Santee Indian territory?



The town of Flandreau, South Dakota, population 2376 in 2000, was originally settled in 1857 and named for the U.S. Indian agent Charles E. Flandreau, a judge in the territory who is credited with saving the nearby community of New Ulm, Minnesota from destruction during conflict with the Yankton Sioux in 1862. Within a year the settlement was abandoned due to the threatening activities of the Yankton Sioux. In 1869, it was resettled by 25 families of Christianized Sioux from the Santee reservation;  non-natives joined them in 1872.  In 1889 Richard Pettigrew made a successful run for the U.S. Senate. One of his campaign promises was to establish an Indian school in Flandreau.  In 1893, Riggs Institute opened; it was later named Flandreau Indian School. 1

As is true in many off-reservation boarding schools,  students came from diverse tribes and bands across the country. At the time, young native people were sent to such schools knowing they would be going far from home, but not knowing for how long or under what circumstances.  Young people growing up in cultures strong in family ties would be expected to leave fathers, mothers, relatives, tribal ceremonial cycles, for perhaps for the first time. Boarding schools were conceived largely as military institutions, thanks to the orientation of Richard Henry Pratt, a former military officer who structured such schools with half days in education and the other half day in manual labor.  This  process was to “Kill the Indian and save the child”,  to re-educate the Indian person away from tribal ways into livelihoods of agriculture and domestic work. 2 Under these circumstances, it seems as though by design that the Flandreau Indian School was located  about a mile north of Flandreau, essentially “out of the town”.

The damage to native peoples in the boarding school system is well documented and I will not dwell on that here. Thanks to investigations by the U.S. government under John Collier’s term (1933-1945) as Commissioner within the Bureau of Indian Affairs, changes were made to boarding school administration and education policies. It is significant that it is within John Collier’s tenure that the American Indians were granted United States citizenship.  Under criticism, many of the boarding schools closed.  By the 1960’s, those that remained had adopted new curriculums under new administration and faculty,  with many becoming high schools or junior colleges. Today, Flandreau Indian School has the distinction of being the longest-running continuously operating Indian boarding school in the Untied States. 3

Burdette B. Warner was Superintendent at Flandreau Indian School when Cordell Morsette and I arrived. During his term at Flandreau (1954-1970), Mr. Warner completed a considerable number of construction projects  at the school including extensive new student dormitories, auditorium, gymnasium and  dining room. The curriculum had been thoroughly reconstituted.  It is my belief that the performing arts was part of his  dedication  to a more modern curriculum. This was the Flandreau Indian School that accepted Mrs. Stewart Udall’s solicitation.  This was the campus in which we would teach, in a new auditorium, living in new student/teacher dormitories. Today, Flandreau Indian High School is a highly regarded secondary school with about 300 students, staffed by  predominantly Native American faculty and  still funded by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs as one of its many tribal schools.


From the outset,  Lee Udall kept a correspondence with me as to the status of the Flandreau dance project. As early as September 3rd, 1969, she wrote: “You will be disappointed to learn that Mr. Limon is under the care of a physician for exhaustion and will not be able to participate in the first few weeks of the program”.  When Martha Hill joined us instead, to do initial introductions, Lee later wrote enthusiastically: “It was great to talk to Martha Hill today in New York and hear that you got off to a rousing start with the dance project. I know it has enormous potential and hope you are as excited as we are about it.” 4

The staff welcomed us with enthusiasm. Cordell Morsette elected to each a theater acting class; I of course chose to teach modern dance with a cultural base, acknowledging the traditional dance and the storytelling forms that are implied in it.  The students at Flandreau and their approach to the work is still quite vivid in my memory today. First of all, I found the traditional Native youth totally open to the study of contemporary dance. This receptiveness is, I believe, a characteristic of native lifeways: survival has been based on respectful preservation of culture and traditions, but new ideas and other ways of “doing” are thoroughly investigated and evaluated for usefulness.  I taught basic modern dance and elementary Limon vocabulary, but in addition to that, I utilized an approach that recognized traditional Native American dance elements.  Movement qualities, postures, steps and rhythms became the foundation of a natural performance presence.  Furthermore, it was a somewhat of a surprise that there were more boys in the class than girls, not at all what one would find in a conventional western-world dance class. True to traditional upbringing, the fact of men dancing remains one of the consistent elements of Native American culture – that men dance, and always with great  spirit, pride and finesse.  The most important question for the semester work, however, was what kind of culminating performance should be done, and if a story, what story? Without hesitation, the class as a whole agreed: the story of  White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman.


Here we come my third story.  The story of White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman from the oral tradition of the Lakota people  represents  a highly respected retelling of how that particular Pipe was gifted to the Lakota people.  In all, seven gifts were given and those gifts are candidly described by Lakota elder Ben Black Elk, in his book The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux, as recorded and edited by Joseph Epes Brown, for the original 1953 publication of the same name.  It was significant to me, that upon this first invitation to introduce “modern dance” into a native school for native performers, that one of the most  traditional and sacred  stories of the people would be brought out for interpretation  and that it would be brought to attention not by the teaching adults, but by the younger generation of the Lakota who were  my students.

Because this story was not  spoken of in everyday conversation, those unfamiliar with tribal behaviors would assume therefore that the story was of little meaning or consequence.  Just the opposite is true.  Silence, rather than reflecting disinterest, very often signifies a reverence for the matter at hand. In the process of the work, I realized that here was a story that the Lakota students knew intimately. They had been raised with this story. They knew its meaning as a mainstay of the oral tradition, where the story fit into their own tribal history, and what significance its meaning had for them as individuals and as a community.  As if of one voice, the students were able to realize a strong, poetic  and respectful presence on stage.

As we worked on the project, certain priorities established themselves. The elders would work with us as we prepared the material. They would be our guides as to what portions of the story could be told and which portions were inappropriate and restricted from the general public. Cordell Morsette, who was also familiar with the story, wrote an episodic script suitable for the dance-drama format.  A large, colorful Thunderbird was prepared by the class as the backdrop for the performance. We settled on a format of the storyteller and the dancer/actor.  A traditional drum and singers could provide the musical framework if needed. Traditional dancers of all ages would be ready to dance.  By the semester’s end, the performance was ready. We chose to call it simply, “The Sacred Pipe”. 

The Story of White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman
Two men were out walking on the prairie. Suddenly, they saw in the distance something coming towards them. As it came closer, they could see that it was a very beautiful woman, dressed in white buckskin and carrying a bundle. One of the men began to have dark thoughts about this woman. “I will take her for my own!” he cried. The other man, Many Horses, told him that he should not have such thoughts.  “She surely must be a Wakawea, a sacred woman. If you abuse her, bad luck will come to you”.   The other replied: “I don’t care what you say”.  Just at that moment, the beautiful Wakawea motioned to the man with dark thoughts, to approach her.  As he rushed toward her, they were both covered by a great cloud. When the cloud lifted, the man at her feet had become a pile of bones. Wakawea turned to the other warrior, and said: “Go tell your people what you have seen. Tell them to prepare for my coming”.  Many Horses returned to his village. There, he told Chief Two Bears what had taken place. They must build a Lodge and purify themselves. Only then could she approach them.

From a distance, they saw the beautiful Wakawea walking toward the village, carrying the bundle.  It is said that, in proper ceremony, she opened the bundle and gave to the people the Sacred Pipe. “With this pipe you will send your thoughts to the Great Spirit”, she said.  With this gift,  the people were given a way to pray.  Finally, she revealed that the people should look for her in the future, for one day she would return. Then she left the village.
It is said that as she walked away into the distance, she turned into a white buffalo calf. Then, she rolled over four times. And each time, she became a different color of the Four Directions – white, red, black and yellow. Then she was gone. 5

The Lakota people understand that this prophecy has come true in our current day with the appearance of a number of white buffalo calves being born in various parts of the North America. It is her sign to us of changing times and of our responsibilities to the Earth.

 It had been arranged that Martha Hill and Jose Limon would attend the culminating student performance at Flandreau Indian School in November, 1969.   The issue of Jose’s health began to surface earlier in the term, when Mrs. Udall again wrote to me saying, “I spoke with Jose Limon on the telephone today. I’m sure Martha told you that he is under the care of a physician, recuperating from extreme exhaustion. In a month or so he will go to South Dakota to spend a few days working on the program. He asked me, in the meantime, to give you his very best and to say he will look forward to seeing and working with you again.”  Jose  would travel by train from New York to join the final performances,  hoping for some measure of rest between engagements before joining his company on tour in California. This final visitation would be, of course,  a follow-up of our training program at Juilliard and an assessment of the program, thus far realized, as envisioned by Lee Udall and the Center for Arts of Indian America. More than that, I believe it was a kind of “thank you” to  Superintendent Warner  and the School itself, for  boldness in broadening the possibilities for native youth. 

Suddenly, the unprecedented moment was set to take place.  Jose Limon, world-renowned choreographer of the American modern dance, was in the auditorium. He made his way down the aisle of the auditorium,  ready to conduct the final rehearsal of  “The Sacred Pipe” being performed by a cast of  fledgling teenage native modern dancers. Jose saw the final run-through, then moved onstage to offer his unique words of encouragement with, of course, his comments for improvement. It was a moment to savor and remember. 

The human body, as you know, is the most ancient, the most eloquent means of communication that we have. Before there were words, before languages came into existence, the body was already able to say many things that had to be said between human beings, between individuals, and between groups of peoples, between nations, between civilizations.
To this day, we find that the body is able to take over when words fail us. Let’s say that there is a very strong emotion, very powerful crisis of some sort, a jolt, a shock, anger, joy and that words fail us. The body will take over quite indistinctly and say what has to be said.
Dancers utilize this power...And they make use of it as the raw material for the art of the dance...This expressive capacity is studied by dancers and there are many techniques for doing so...But nevertheless, the performer must be very carefully trained, he must be very disciplined. 6

Finally, the Flandreau School students, staff and faculty streamed into the auditorium.  In the audience sat Martha Hill.  “The Sacred Pipe” was performed along with Mr. Morsette’s one-act play. When the students had finished their performances, Superintendent Warner introduced Jose Limon, who rose from his seat and walked slowly down the aisle toward the stage. There was a gentle smile on his face. I don't recall the full measure of his speech, but I paraphrase here the heart of his message that has stayed with me:  “You have been held in reserve for the time when you will be able to make the contributions needed from you for the future of your people.”  Looking back from our present point in time, Jose Limon’s words throw a predictive light on the current developments in North American Indigenous contemporary dance.


There is no record that Rosalie Jones or Cordell Morsette ever studied at the Juilliard School, perhaps since no grades were given.   We truly were the "invisible Indians" attending the great NYC Juilliard School of Dance as guests of  the  Lee Udall's  equally ephemeral Center for Arts of Indian America.

Mrs. Stewart Udall's vision was one in which  she recognized that Native peoples – the Indigenous peoples of North America - have particular art forms, dances, songs, stories, sensibilities, a culture,  that could give impetus to a thoroughly unique way of moving and choreographing. She anticipated, perhaps unconsciously, that  innovative art forms inspired by that rich culture, could see the light of day, if only given the proper encouragement and support. Her passionate idea has, I believe, come to some fruition today in the current work of emerging and established Indigenous choreographers such as Rulan Tangen, Raoul Trujillo, Marla Bingham, myself, and others.  

The cultural and creative work started at Flandreau Indian School has stayed with me through the years. The story of White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman eventually found its way into the repertoire of my company, Daystar: Contemporary Dance-Drama of Indian America, founded in 1980. The company toured “Sacred Woman, Sacred Earth” extensively, expanding its range to include the Buffalo Woman’s prophecy of her return in our times. This spiritual story has been one that the Lakota holy man Arvil Looking Horse has declared a story that must be shared with the larger community, saying that our world needs its message in our time, for its own survival.

Remembering the spirited youth at Flandreau Indian School and their embodiment of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman story is forever tied to my memory of Jose Limon.  My memory of Jose Limon is first, of course, as the choreographer, the dancer, the teacher.  But the more vivid memory for me is of Jose Limon the mentor.   Being of mixed Indian and Spanish blood himself,  I think Jose Limon had a unique rapport, even a blood memory in common with those of us who were struggling with the issues of how to handle the choreographic material drawn from cultural roots.  The coming forward for Jose Limon to the project at Flandreau Indian School for the Center for Arts of Indian America was an historic event in the life of Jose Limon that should be permanently documented as a legacy of significance to be honored and remembered.  With his involvement, Jose Limon became both a friend and mentor not only to me and to the young people with whom he worked at the Flandreau Indian School, but by way of legacy and influence, he became a mentor to the Indigenous contemporary dance movement in North America.It is my hope that this part of the professional history of Jose Limon will gain recognition, acceptance, and  true respect.

Teaching cannot be done in solitary. Teaching takes place in that sacred space between teacher and student, a place bounded by creativity, innovation, risk and most all, trust.  In a traditional society, it is called “passing down”, a passing of the knowledge on to the next generation.  I see my experience at Flandreau Indian School as one in which teaching and learning took place for both student and teacher. In remembering “The Sacred Pipe”, it is appropriate that the student performers be remembered for both their talent and sense of adventure, as individuals who achieved a milestone that fall day in 1969.  I name them here, in celebration of that milestone: 

Iris Eagle Hawk as Wakawea
Thomas Gardner as Many Horses
Calvin Iron as Thunder Hawk
Charles Wall as Chief Two Bears
Villagers: Susan Alden, Mavis Eagle Man,
Ellis Rides Horse, Ben Big Man and Harry Wallace. 7

To all of you, wherever you are today, I say “Chi-migwitch: a big thank you.”



1. Flandreau Indian School.

2. Native American History: Boarding Schools.

3. Collier, John.

4. Letter to Rosalie Jones from Lee Udall dated September 16, 1969.

5. Story summary as consolidated from  the unpublished script “The Sacred Pipe” by Cordell
    Morsette, and the unpublished script of “Sacred Woman, Sacred Earth” by Tony Shearer, Daystar
    Company associate.

6.  Jose Limon: voice-over for 16mm film produced by South Dakota Arts Council
     documenting  Jose Limon at Flandreau Indian School, 1969.

7.  Flandreau Indian School program  “The Sacred Pipe”, 1969.



Brown, Joseph Epes.  The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux. University of Oklahoma Press. 1989.

Morsette, Cordell.  “The Sacred Pipe”. Unpublished script, 1969.

Udall, Lee.  Letters on letterhead of  Center for Arts of Indian America. 1969.

Photographs:  Personal collection of Daystar/Rosalie Jones, circa November, 1969.


Published  as a chapter in the  Congress on Research in Dance 2007 Conference Proceedings:  Choreographies of Migration, Patterns of Mobility, Editor: Tresa Randall, Barnard College, NY 2007.

Published as a chapter in The  Limon Centennial Collection, Editors: Betsy Miller and Anna Vachon, Jose Limon Dance Foundation, NY, 2008.


Rosalie M. Jones  © 2007




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