Caelen Lohnes of Spirit Lake Nation, was chosen to perform in Standing Rock for the President.

By Shinoah Young
DL Journal Reporter

Shortly after Caelen Lohnes learned how to walk, he also learned how to dance powwow.

“He’s been dancing since he was two,” said Rena Lohnes, Caelen’s mother.
The 11-year-old fancy dancer from Spirit Lake Nation was chosen to perform for

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, earlier this June, after the historic round table discussion with tribal leaders took place at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

An excited Caelen bragged to two of his close buddies that he was chosen to powwow dance for the President and First Lady, but he said they didn’t believe him. “They didn’t think it was real at first and then I told their parents and they believed him,” laughed Rena, who accompanied her son on the special trip to see the Obamas.

“My friends thought is was cool too,” said Caelen.

“It was an honor,” said his father, John Lohnes. “It’s good. It’s something that he’s interested in. It’s a hobby, something that keeps him busy so he doesn’t do other things. He can focus on his dancing and practice that in a positive way.”

“He was kind of scared when we were going through security checkpoints,” said Caelen’s mother, Rena Lohnes. “It’s a once in a lifetime experience anyway. It was really special because he was wearing his grandfather’s outfit.”

“It was really exciting. It was his first time to meet the president of the United States,” said Caelen’s grandfather Burton Jackson, an avid powwow dancer and singer. “I coached Caelen as far as what to do. To put on a good show and when he got done I told him, he needs to go over there and shake Obama’s hand - but he got scared of the Secret Service I guess,” explained Jackson.

“Caelen practices nearly everyday almost,” said Jackson, looking at his grandson with a proud smile.

“I just kind of coach him. He shows me his moves and asks if they’re okay to use and in fancy dance - you can basically do anything you want because its fancy … They try to stay in time with the drum at the same time.”

“Don’t forget, he does kart wheels too,” said 5-year-old sibling Joran Lohnes, on his older brother’s dancing.

Grandfather Jackson said his earliest memories of entering that powwow circle was at 4-years-old in Spirit Lake Nation.

The 52-year-old said he gets the same warmth in his heart, that he did at age four. “When you hear a good song, you know, and me, I like to dance for the people that are gone.”

“That’s just the way I was raised. To honor our people.”

“I’ve been trying to retire from dancing since last year but my grandkids won’t let me,” he said with a graceful smile.

“To keep me strong, my mother used to bead for me and my brother made bustles for me and my father,” he shared. “When I had tragedies I kind of looked towards the singing and the prayers.”

“When I go out to powwows that’s what makes me feel good is dancing for them, because we’re just lucky to be alive and able to walk– and dance.”

“It should be a good powwow.”

“A lot of people from Sioux Valley in Manitoba and all over, come down for the powwow,” said Rena.

“Caelen is excited for the powwow.” She said he likes to listen to the singing and the drum groups and he pays close attention to the men’s adult fancy dancers. “I like watching them,” said Caelen, bashfully.

“That’s a group everyone watches, a main attraction,” said Rena.

“Its quite an experience,” said Jackson. “I’ve been dancing all my life and its hard to quit.”

“You can just get out there and dance for pleasure and join in that circle at anytime.”