Albert Porter, tall and statuesque donned a blue eagle shirt with a sterling silver feather earring dangling from his right ear lobe.

When asked about his choice of clothing- he replied, “This is my culture. This is my heritage.”

At 77, Porter, who is of Tuscarora and Cherokee descent, is considered an elder.

He describes how his traditional upbringing led him to Native American dancing and his struggles to pass on the legacy.

 

Photo: Albert Porter

 

Speaking in a deep and low methodical tone, Porter reflects on growing up as an only child on a farm in North Carolina.

“We come from a family of hard workers. My mom was a special lady. Her bloodline goes back to the “Trail of Tears”. My grandmother was one of the natives forced to Oklahoma because they wanted the land,” Porter said. “They killed a lot of my ancestors before they packed them up and sent them away.”

The Indian Removal Act in 1830 forced Native Americans to relocate from Georgia and other parts of Southeastern United States to Indian Territory, which was west of the Mississippi River. Between 1831-1850 more than 5,000 Native Americans died as a result of the involuntary journey known as the “Trail of Tears”.

 

Photo: History.com

His grandmother died before he could meet her, but he felt her spirit through the stories of the past that were told to him.

Although Porter was an only child, his mother’s 13 brothers and sisters heavily influenced him and his decision to start dancing.

“Everything my uncles and cousins did, I wanted to do. I would watch them dance in awe,” Porter said. “No one taught me. I just started doing it and I never stopped.”

Porter describes Native American dancing as, “very religious and spiritual.” Many of the dances were handed down from generation to generation from hundreds of years ago.

 

Photo: Albert Porter dancing at a powwow

He has danced at powwows all over Michigan, including all 77 universities within the state.

“Powwows are very special and performed all over the United States and Canada. If you have never been to one, it’s a sight to see and hear,” Porter explained excitedly. “The drums, the singing, the colors. We dance all day and take a break, then dance all night. It’s a really uplifting and spiritual.”

While dancing brings Porter much joy, it brings him pain to think about other young Native Americans, including his son, that are not interested in passing along the tradition.

 

Photo: Porter on the left after performing with other elders.

“A lot of the young people I talk to don’t want to dance. They don’t even know their own culture. It’s very sad because I try to be as traditional as I can,” he said. “I wanted my son to follow the same road, but he is on another path. The only thing I can do is point him to it. If you don’t have anyone to pass your heritage along to you will lose it.”

Before Porter gets up to leave, he pulls a red ID card out of his wallet and stares at it for over a minute before slipping it to me.

 

Photo: Albert Porter

 

“You have to know who you are and your heritage,” Porter said. “How can you reach your goals or get to your destination without knowing where you came from. We have lost so much as a people that we can’t afford to not know our history.”

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Kyla Heat

Kyla’s family and friends describe her as a walking Encyclopedia when it comes to everything pop culture, beauty, fitness and fashion. Kyla knew she wanted to be a writer when she began writing short stories and poems for her family. A true Michigander at heart, Kyla graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in journalism and attended Specs Howard School of Media Arts. Along the way, she has interviewed everyone from, Idris Elba, Kerry Washington, Jack Kevorkian, Robert Kennedy Jr., Joel Osteen, Russell Simmons and Wiz Khalifa. After a stint working at a psychic shop and producing shows for an all talk radio station on iHeartRadio, Kyla landed at The Detroit News, working as an editorial assistant and reporter. She worked at PBS Detroit, as a social media manager before joining the Urban Content Studios team. When she is not writing, Kyla likes to spend time with family, shop and compete in fitness bikini competitions.

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