World champion fancy dancer Patrick Mitsuing witnessed history in the making when the NFL recognized the Indigenous land on which the 2023 Super Bowl was played on Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.
Mitsuing, of Sylvan Lake, said the NFL went even further by having an Indigenous artist design the Super Bowl tickets and event artwork, an Indigenous sign language translator during the national anthem, an Indigenous referee, and organizing Indigenous performances.
There also just happened to be two Indigenous players on the Kansas City Chiefs.
“For the NFL, a big organization to do that … it kind of sets the stage for any sports event or any gathering to do the same,” said the member of the Cree Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nations who was the only Canadian to perform with about a half dozen other Indigenous dancers at pre-game activities leading up to the Super Bowl game at State Farm Stadium.
He said even though powwows are held in the U.S., there are millions of people in the country, so performing at Super Bowl events likely introduced many Americans to Indigenous culture.
“When we came out they were so intrigued. They just thought it was so beautiful, the regalia, the beadwork. They were happy that there was Indigenous representation at the event.
“We got swarmed with pictures and people wanting to talk to us. There’s a lot of questions when they see powwow for the first time. People want to be respectful but they don’t know what’s the right protocol — to cheer or to not cheer — but it was loud and it was good.”
He also enjoyed meeting a young fan from Arizona who has been following Mitsuing’s career for a long time and called the Canadian his favourite dancer.
“A young kid from Arizona, so far from where I live, and to be able to have an influence all the way over there, is pretty cool.”
Performing at the Super Bowl was a highlight for Mitsuing where he danced at Super Bowl Opening Night on Feb. 6 and other shows leading up to the game.
“I’ve been dancing my whole life, became a world champion, danced at major shows like New Orleans Jazz Festival, Canada 150 in Montreal. I’ve done a lot of shows. Nothing topped this. It was insane. The environment, the crowd, the professionalism of the event.”
Then came the rollercoaster of emotions watching the Kansas City Chiefs battle the Philadelphia Eagles live at the stadium, and Rihanna’s half-time show.
“I’ve never seen an event that big before. There were about 70,000 people in that building. When everyone was cheering all at the same time it was crazy, really electric.”
Mitsuing, who is president of the competitive powwow production company Powwow Times and a member of Indigenous Tourism Alberta, said the Super Bowl was a huge platform and his email has been blowing up with opportunities.
“It’s opening a lot of people’s eyes, and I think we opened a lot of doors for other Indigenous artists as well.”
Mitsuing’s next performances are in London and Paris in March to promote Indigenous Tourism in Alberta, before heading to Japan in April.
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