Naicatchewenin First Nation

As the open road warmly embraces three generations of dancers, Treaty 3 territory smiles right back as we whisk our vehicle through curvy roads bordered with lakes, treetops and far open lands. Headed to the beautiful little community of Naicatchewenin First Nation for their 40th annual Powwow celebrations.

Just a month prior I was in the same location, presenting to the youth of Naicatchewenin First Nation and surrounding communities at the same newly built wooden arbor. After that presentation, two members of the powwow committee approached me with tobacco and asked in a respectful way if I would come back to represent as head lady dancer for their powwow. Honoured, I accepted. I had never been a head dancer in the many years I’ve danced so the new experience and opportunity excited me.

The day finally approached. As we left, the sun was just sitting overhead, ready for our 4-hour journey into their beautiful territory. We set up camp atop of one of the hills overlooking the powwow grounds close to some friends from Winnipeg who had also travelled over for the celebration.

The next few days were fulfilling and good for the soul. Late nights spent by the fire at our camp, watching the flames dance in the summer breeze, listening to the nightly creatures roam around the land, looking high into the sky at the brightest stars and Milky Way twinkling. Thinking deeply about this life and all experiences and opportunities that lead me to that very moment. Getting lost amongst constellations and wishing upon shooting stars. Sharing laughs with my mother and grandmother, as we lay snuggled in our tent.

The community was amazing. They were very hospitable and generous. Each morning we were greeted by smiling faces that cooked up massive delicious feasts for breakfast at the community gym. We were also served grand feasts for dinner; Tender fresh fish fry, moose meat, handmade wild rice, potatoes, bannock and vegetables. We were also offered a beautiful cabin just a few kilometres outside of the community but I had decided to stay within the community and camp amongst the locals and stay close to the powwow grounds.

The community and powwow committee also allotted me space and time to host a dance special! I raised enough funds to put together an “Empowering Our Youth” special for kids ages 12 and under. The four places were granted to those youth who danced hard for the people with high energy and smiles. They were then granted a set of their own hoops and some prize money for them and their families. The drum group, “Little Foot”, then honoured them with an honour song. I also made sure that every youth didn’t walk away without anything so I put together consolation honorariums and put together a handmade motivating gift for each young one. I felt this special was important, as the committee members had mentioned most of the people in the community haven’t seen hoop dancing and many are dealing with healing journeys of their own through intergenerational traumas. So in order to empower the young ones to keep dancing and carry on these traditions I held this special.

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Almost over 70 youth filled the circle, dancing hard for the smiling elders under the hot summer sun. Their beaded and sewn regalia sparkling in the sunshine, their fringes and ribbons whipping all around to become a beautiful wonderful blur of colours and resiliency. I was in awe. I felt proud of all of them and their families cheering them on from the sides. It was incredibly difficult to choose only four dancers to receive the hoops but with the help of my mother, grandmother and the headman dancer, we put our minds together and decided on four who’s spirits lit up when they danced.

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It was a memorable experience that I will cherish and I hope to see these young ones grow with their hoops or still see dancing as we all grow through the years still following that red road and powwow trail.

On some time off, my family and I explored the beach where the locals swim and we shared stories and laughs with some new families we met there. Being a head dancer we had many roles. Each and every grand entry and retreat we were there, dancing behind the honoured flag carriers, elders and dignitaries. We judged dance competitions, supported all honour songs, spot dances and traditional sacred whistles that were blown and above all we just danced. Danced for our communities, for the community of Naicatchewenin, for the youth and elders. We danced to pray and to heal and to represent Indigenous country with our heads held high, with our feet and moccasins connected to our mother the earth, praying with each step of light for that water just a few meters over. Praying for the continuation of healing nationwide for our people and that renewal and reclamation of our identities.

It was a beautiful time spent with family, community, outside on the land and opening our minds to connect, experience and grow.

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Traveled Guatemala, Antigua & Lake Atitlan

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HI!
This post is part two of my post about the trip I took down to Guatemala City for the World Indigenous Business Forum. That post can be found HERE. After the forum we had the chance to venture around Guatemala and the surrounding areas for the rest of our week’s stay. Let’s just say..it was definitely an exhilarating unforgettable adventure with many ups and downs. Some of the downs included my frequent panic attacks because of last minute changes or spontaneous risky adventures and the fact that my little brother caught a really bad virus that left him very ill for the two weeks after our trip. On the other hand, some of the ups included the breathtaking sights and culture that we were able to see, mainly because of our incredibly awesome tour guide. His name was Elmer and he took us on routes that were different from the main tours, so we had a much more exclusive, local, and community experience. So if you ever travel to Guatemala and want a great tour guide I highly recommend him and his company, more info can be found HERE.

Even though the trip consisted of those ups and downs it was an amazing life experience and an unforgettable trip with so many unforgettable memories and moments that will stay with all of us for the rest of our lives.

I hope you guys enjoyed the few pictures I have shared, I have many many more so if you’d like a post consisting of more pictures just let me know in the comments! Thank you for viewing and reading. If you also have any ideas for future posts, I’m always up for suggestions, just leave a comment or shoot me a message. I would love to hear from you!

Take Care Everyone!

World Indigenous Business Forum 2014!

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The Indigenous Leadership Development Institute Inc (ILDII) in Winnipeg helps organize the World Indigenous Business Forum (WIBF) with a community host in different parts of the world every year. This year it was hosted in Guatemala City at the West Camino Real Hotel in the heart of Guatemala and took place from October 28th – 30th.

The forum’s website states that the forum is a platform that engages Indigenous communities and their leaders in global discussion on economic development issues such as community, industry, academic and government and the varying challenges/successes. The forum operates on the seven generational thinking that provides sustainable prosperity for children and the children seven generations on. The first portion was connecting and networking of indigenous communities and their leaders. The second portion was sharing knowledge and strategies for community development and the third included inspiring diverse speakers from around the globe to motivate future endeavors of economic success.

I had the privilege to participate and listen to the various speakers and it was interesting to see similarities between all nations in attendance such as the hope to alleviate poverty through focuses on investment and financial strategies and the importance to maintain cultural practice to sustain their heritage for future generations. It was very inspiring to see Indigenous leadership participating in this forum through networking, learning and being able to relate to one another. I also believe it was very appropriate and important to have different levels of Indigenous individuals involved in the forum such as individuals at the grassroots level, local Indigenous communities, individuals who owned their own companies and leaders such as the president of Guatemala. It is important to include and engage all members of a community in the dialogue towards economic development for the success of communities in the future and to participate in the learning process toward a better economy with the use of efficiency, effectiveness, self-reliance and sustainability.

I also had the opportunity to showcase the Indigenous hoop dance to everyone in attendance which left me with a sense of pride to showcase and represent my home community and my brother, Jesse Spence, was also able to showcase the grass dance. Youth from Fisher River Cree Nation were also able to showcase their unique styles of powwow dance. I believe we all finished feeling proud to be able to educate all of these different communities in attendance of our culture, dance, songs and ultimately ourselves as individual, unique, proud indigenous youth.

Overall, it was an amazing experience and it truly inspired me and embedded a deep hope that it is possible for nations to come together in peace to learn from each other, grow and help each other toward positive, sustainable economic development. Next year, the forum will be held in the beautiful land of Hawaii. If you have any further questions or would like to become involved in such a wonderful event please visit their website at http://www.wibf.ca. Also feel free to search #WIBF2014 to see a glimpse of this years forum.

Thanks for reading!

Indigenous Hoop Dance

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Hey Everyone! First of all, I would like to apologize for my absence from this blog. Classes have started, I’ve already caught the “change of the season” cold, I’ve been super busy and I had an extreme case of writer’s block and couldn’t think of anything to write.

However, I thought I would discuss the Indigenous Hoop Dance for you all since I think many of you don’t fully understand the reasoning for why I do what I do or what it is that I do. Let me give you some insight into my world…

I was introduced to the hoop dance at 13 and have continued to practice and grow with it over 7 years now. The teachings I was given was that it was used for storytelling, guidance/direction and healing. People would come to this individual if they were seeking guidance and/or healing in their lives and once this individual would dance it would show them the answers they were looking for in order to move forward in positive ways. It was also used for storytelling in the way the hoops intertwine and move to create images and dancing designs of many different things such as animals, things of nature, humans, etc. The hoop dance also symbolizes the importance of keeping a healthy balance in life including the 4 important areas of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual and understanding the negatives and positives that come with it. I was also told that the hoop dance could symbolize deeper meanings such as the circle of life it’s self. Most hoop dancers will have the four directions on their hoops which represents that medicine wheel and journey we take in life beginning as a newborn, throughout childhood, young adult, as an elder and then beginning that circle once again.

These are quite similar to the reasons why I dance and what I keep in mind while dancing. I dance for that healing, not only for myself but for my community and all Indigenous people. We have faced the residential school system, oppression, complications within child and family services, suicide rates among our youth and many more experiences that have led to inter-generational effects and hurting within our communities. One of the main things we are still facing is the 1181+ missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. I dance for them, their families and their communities. I also dance for the showcasing of positive cultural pride, to break down those stereotypes and not only show the beauty of our heritage but also educate those who are willing to watch about the history and culture of Indigenous people in Canada.

I also dance for the youth, to stand up and dance along side of them for sustainable futures and the next generation. I want to inspire the younger ones that they can do anything they set their minds too and that just because you are an Indigenous person does not make you anything less even though negative connotations can in some ways unfortunately make them feel that way. Also, the fact that I am a woman and can hoop dance also gives a sense of that empowerment because of the fact that so many are used to seeing primarily males hoop dancing. It’s something new, exciting and different and I believe that this empowerment is also felt by the younger girls that I teach. I was incredibly happy and looked up to many other women I saw hoop dancing growing up such as Lisa Odjig.  On top of everything and what ties all of that together is the entertainment aspect of why I dance. To make myself and others happy through that storytelling concept and some fancy moves hidden in between. I enjoy the process through learning and watching other hoop dancers and I hope to continue to do this for a long time. I will also be travelling to the world championships in Arizona next year so you can anticipate a blog post about my experience there along with some photographs!

Thank you so much for reading, if you have gotten this far! I will be posting a lot more often, so stay tuned!