Hopi culture showcase at Rose Bowl Parade
Dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation, OneLegacy Donate Life makes a grand appearance with float capturing the spirit of the Hopi

Hopi youth show their costumes for the Butterfly Dance at the 135th Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California. (Photo/Duane Allen Humeyestewa)

Hopi youth show their costumes for the Butterfly Dance at the 135th Rose Bowl Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California. (Photo/Duane Allen Humeyestewa)

PASADENA, Calif. — Members of the Hopi tribe had a once-in-a-lifetime experience New Year’s day when they danced in the 135th Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. They performed the Butterfly Dance alongside the float “Woven Together: The Dance of Life,” which showcased Hopi culture.

Millions of people across the country watched the Hopi performance on TV, with huge crowds lined up along the 5.5 mile parade route, some camping out the night before to get good spots to watch the 23 intricate floats and numerous entertainment.

Hopi Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma and Vice Chairman Craig Andrews sang the prayer songs for the dance, while eight Hopi youth, ages 12-19, danced in traditional regalia.

Photos courtesy OneLegacy, Duane Allen Humeyestewa, Maggie Sewa Fredericks

“I didn’t know it was going to be that big but it was pretty big,” said Nuvangyaoma’s 12-year-old son Richard Fredericks, who was one of the dancers. “It was really nice. The float, the masks… It was beautiful, I could smell the flowers everywhere too.”

As a rule, all floats in the parade must be covered in flowers or other natural material, and some use as many as 60,000 roses. The Woven Together float, created by OneLegacy as part of its campaign to find tissue and organ donors for those in need, had over 2,000 individually dedicated roses. Twenty-two donors and recipients rode on the float.

The focal point of the float was a gigantic Hopi Butterfly Dancer wearing an intricate headdress. The headdress had cranberry seeds, dehydrated red peppers, carrots and black beans. Purple, blue and yellow statice accentuated the details, and bright white everlasting flowers made the feathers glisten.

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Richard Fredericks, left, poses with other Hopi dancers on the “Woven Together” float. (Photo/Duane Allen Humeyestewa)

Richard said he at first he was nervous dancing in front of so many people but began to relax as the parade progressed.

“I just ignored all the people and then just focused,” Richard said, adding that his feet hurt by the end of the route. “Our traditional shoes, moccasins, kind of aren’t built for pavement at all because they’re thin at the bottom…I didn’t want to walk anywhere afterward.”

But the minor pain was well worth it. The Woven Together float ended up winning the judge’s trophy for Best Dramatic Impact.

Malinda Andrews, chief of staff of the Hopi Tribe, went as one of six adults who chaperoned the dancers during the event. She said the Hopi group didn’t see the float until the morning of the parade.

“I cried…just the beauty of it and just to know how many volunteer hours went into that,” Andrews said. “To see the intricacy of the float…the basketry, the design of the baskets and the butterflies on there, everything was just meticulously done. Perfection to perfection.”

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The float model for “Woven Together: The Dance of Life,” designed by Charles Meir with input from the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office. (Rendering/OneLegacy)

Andrews’ 13-year-old daughter Ava, was another dancer at the parade.

“The (kids) were excited of course, because they had seen the Macy’s parade on television, but I don’t think they understood the magnitude of the parade until we got there, and that’s when it all hit them," she said.

The Hopi group traveled to Pasadena Dec. 29 and left Jan. 2. Andrews said it was the first plane ride for many in the group. When they walked into their hotel, the room broke out in clapping.

“The kids were looking for a celebrity maybe to walk in,” Andrews said. “The kids looked around and...it was (for) us.”

The Hopi Cultural Preservation office partnered with OneLegacy in spring 2023 and Andrews helped put the dance group together in October.

This year’s parade theme was “Celebrating a World of Music: The Universal Language,” and OneLegacy chose to pay homage to the music and dance traditions of the Hopi tribe for its 21st year in the parade. OneLegacy focuses on a different part of the world each year.

Originally, float designer Charles Meier wanted to use Hopi Kachina dolls, but the preservation office explained that Kachina dolls are a sacred part of the Hopi culture and should remain private. The team decided to focus on the Butterfly Dance instead, since that is performed publicly.

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Hopi Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma and Vice Chairman Craig Andrews with Hopi youth dancers and OneLegacy transplant donors or recipients. (Photo/Maggie Sewa Fredericks)

Chairman of the float committee, Tom Mone, said OneLegacy appreciates the Hopi community’s involvement and partnership “in sharing their tradition of the Butterfly Dance, celebrating the life-giving power of the butterfly that pollinates the corn, their staple food, as well as their traditional basketry that holds that bounty for sharing with their community.”

Among the giant baskets on the float were portraits of donors who had given life-saving organs. These were floragraphs, made with thousands of tiny flowers that dozens of volunteers helped to assemble, including donors’ family members.

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Orlan Honyumptewa

Members of the Navajo, Choctaw, Colville and Kickapoo nations were honored with floragraphs. Two transplant recipients who had received the gift of life were on the float: Orlan Honyumptewa, who received a kidney transplant and is a member of the Hopi Tribe, and Renee Roybal, who is a heart transplant recipient from Pueblo de San Ildefonso.

Mone explained that he hoped the float would inspire people to register as a donor. The need for lifesaving organ transplants is especially high among communities of color, and Native Americans suffer from five times the rate of liver failure and two times the rate of kidney failure.

Photos courtesy OneLegacy

“These medical conditions too often require a lifesaving transplant,” Mone said. “We are so grateful to showcase the life-saving power of organ, eye and tissue donation among Native American nations and we hope to continue inspiring these and all communities.”

Frederick Jones, Navajo, was one donor who was represented by a floragraph on the float. Jones became an organ donor after he saw the impact it made on his sister, Miceale, who received a life-changing kidney transplant from a deceased donor. When Jones was 27 he suffered irreversible head trauma from a car accident. After he died, Jones’ family prayed and spoke over his body, thanking them for serving him in this material world with a wish they would serve the next person. Jones’ kidneys, liver, heart, pancreas and corneas were given to those in dire need.

Though the Navajo and Hopi cultures don’t generally believe in bodily modification and organ procurement of the deceased, Andrews said hearing the stories of the donors’ families was moving.

“Of course you read about it, you hear about it, but I didn’t understand until I got to hear at the dinner what it meant to families and some of the recipients that rode on the float, their own stories just impacted me so much,” Andrews said. “It just opened my eyes to the possibilities that are there, how your body could give life.”

The Hopi group attended and performed at the OneLegacy dinner and were invited to a New Year’s Eve celebration, but Andrews said they were so exhausted by Dec. 31 that the group only made it until about 9 p.m.

“With the rigorous agenda that we were following we were (sometimes) up by 3 a.m. in preparation,” Andrews said. “The kids were up by 4 a.m., we had to be dressed by 5 a.m.”

All of the regalia was shipped ahead of time and they needed to put it all together. There was also a meet and greet, practices and other pre-parade events.

“We really didn’t have time to mingle…however on parade day as we were getting there and the sun was rising we did get to see other floats,” Andrews said. “The kids were awesome, nobody complained. They were really happy to showcase and share their culture…we worked really well as a team. We did things together and everything worked out so great.”

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