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Inspirational Native American Women: Maria Tallchief

1331 words - 6 pages

Maria Tallchief was an inspirational Native American woman for all people to look to as a role model. As a child, she was incredibly gifted in the arts. However, by growing up in an Osage family, she had to endure hardships, like bullying, that no child should ever go through. Her dreams, on the other hand, took her places when she got older. She is credited with being the first Native American prima ballerina. Because of her worldwide productions and success, Tallchief met many people and received numerous awards. This woman left behind a legacy that is a gift to the world. Maria Tallchief, of the Osage tribe, became one of the most adored and experienced ballerinas after overcoming misconceptions about her race.

Maria Tallchief had an artistic childhood. She was born on January 24, 1925, in Fairfax, Oklahoma, on the Osage Indian Reserve. Her father was a full-blooded Osage Native American. However, her mother was Scottish and Irish. As a child, Tallchief loved playing outside. She enjoyed practicing piano and doing ballet, too (Technological Solutions, Inc.). Sometimes, her mother would sneak her to see an Osage pow-wow, so she could experience their culture through what she loved. The arts had such a large impact on her that she devoted most of her free time to piano and ballet. This time of happiness did not last long, however. When Tallchief was eight, her family moved to Los Angeles, California, and everything changed.

For Maria Tallchief, moving to California brought struggles and hardships, but some things really helped her grow as a dancer. For example, at public schools in Beverly Hills, no one respected her background. The children would make fun of her last name. Also, the kids made war whoops at her and asked why she did not wear feathers. Some even wondered if her father scalped people. For her, this was troublesome. It did not help that her father was an alcoholic and yelled at the family. Misconceptions and stereotypes caused some of her ballet numbers in shows to be based on Native Americans. At one performance early on, she had to wear pointe shoes under moccasins, a headband with feathers on it, bells on her legs, and a fringed buckskin outfit. In addition to all of that, she had to dance to tom-tom music (Tallchief, 1997, pp. 4-18). Good things did come later, however. For instance, she started taking ballet at Mr. Belcher's School of Ballet. While there, she really found her drive to become a better ballerina even though she had to give up practicing piano for two hours a day. Later, she switched dance schools and started taking ballet from Bronislava Nijinska, a famous Russian ballerina. Tallchief was there for five years, and in that small period of time, she flourished into the powerful and beautiful dancer she is known to be today. Because of this teacher and this school, she developed a dream. This one dream would be the thing that opened doors for her as a ballerina. This dream impacted her life forever.


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