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Champion Hoop Dancer Speaks At Violence Awareness Conference

Jasmine Bell

Two-time world champion hoop dancer Jasmine Bell spoke and performed at a conference on domestic violence and sexual assault in Riverton last week. Bell is Crow Creek Dakota Sioux and one of the first girls to learn the traditionally male Native American dance when she was five years old. 

She said, at first, she experienced a lot of discrimination but now about a third of all hoop dancers are female. But she said she's worried that the traditional intention of the dance is getting lost.

"Hoop dancing's a healing dance," Bell said. "When you go out there to dance, you're not dancing for yourself. It was about going out there, telling your story through the creation of the designs that you make and at the same time, when you're dancing you're praying for those that are in need."

She said, often she was the one in need.

"I [went] through bullying, I went through domestic violence, but because I had my hoop dancing and I was taught those values, when I would go out on stage and when I would dance that was like a release of that negative energy," said Bell.

The third annual Wyoming Conference on Violence Prevention and Response was held at the Wind River Casino owned by the Northern Arapaho Tribe in Riverton this year. Numerous sessions at the conference dealt with the high rates of violence experienced by Native women. 40 percent of Native women will experience violence in their lifetime.

Bell has traveled the world performing hoop dancing and offers workshops teaching other girls and women to do so. South Dakota Public Broadcasting is currently working on creating a documentary about Bell's life.

Join us this week on Open Spaces, Friday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 12 p.m., to hear the full interview with Bell.

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