Hoop Dance Championships

Each year, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona hosts the World Hoop Dance Championships where Indigenous hoop dancers from all over the world gather to meet, compete, inspire and represent their home communities. It was my second year attending and representing my Cree and Saulteaux roots from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation and Lake St. Martin First Nation. Little did I know, that my inner critic would get the best of me and that it would become a very teachable moment in my life that I’ll remember for a long time.

The days leading up to the event were full of excitement, boatloads of support from our communities back home and reminiscing about that buzz I had felt after my first year. I traveled down with 6 year old Rylee Sandberg and her family and we had coined ourselves as the “Winnipeg Female Hoop Dance Team”. We received immense support from our families and communities as we prepared for our big trip by promoting ourselves through social media, t.v interviews, school workshops and extra performances.

The big day arrived and I was excited to meet and dance alongside all of the dancers who I look up to and cheer on Rylee. We drove down to the Heard Museum bright and early under the Arizona sun and after a long day of sitting in the sun and watching all of the tiny tot, youth and teen divisions perform, it was my turn to dance. My nerves intensified as I walked up to the northern drum and told them to give me a nice fast beat.

A
NICE
FAST
BEAT.

Once the drum began, I instantly knew I was in trouble. My mind was a blur and everything I had practiced in my routine was thrown out the window as I tried to keep up with the fast pace. Once I finished, I shook all of the singers hands and walked away with my head low and my eyes filling with tears. I was in a panic, out of breath and felt completely disappointed with my performance. I quickly shuffled to the restroom quickly disregarding many comments that I did fantastic. I was just too engulfed in my own self critique and funk. I swear this story gets better though, hang in there.

I went to go sit in the lounge where many other hoop dancers were. Celina Cada-Matasawagon was one of the first people to offer wise words of support when I was feeling my lowest. She reminded me of the reason why we dance and that we should just go out there and have fun and not dwell on the idea of placing. She reminded me of everyone back home rooting for me and that it’s important to keep my head up and keep going because of those young ones looking up to us. She said a lot of things that I needed to hear and I was incredibly appreciative of that. That evening we discovered that Rylee had made top 6 in the youth division. That evening was full of mixed emotions. My earlier disappointment in myself was overpowered by an overflow of love and happiness for Rylee and for all the kind words and support everyone had for the both of us.

That second day was another wondrous day. I was in better spirits and continued to meet and talk with the other dancers, partake in honour songs and support Rylee all the way up until she placed 3rd over 31 other youth hoop dancers in her division. I also found Celina and gave her a huge hug and told her that I was appreciative of what she had did for me. At the end of that day, the winners were all announced and everyone was saying their goodbyes. At that moment I also experienced the utmost love and support from the hoop dance and Indigenous community. Everyone asking if I was coming back and that I did a great job. Dallas Arcand and Tracy Bone also offered words of advice that I needed to hear exclaiming that even though I may not have placed, I was still a champion in everyones eyes including our home communities and the youth that I teach. They told me that I’ll get there one day and that it’s important to not give too much of myself away and to look after myself too. They also thanked me for all the work I was doing back home by planting those seeds and offering teachings to the younger generations. Those were words I definitely needed to hear as I emotionally gave them hugs and thanked them for their kind words of advice.

This year’s hoop dance gathering in Phoenix was another amazing year. I learned so much more about myself, met amazing influential people and felt all of the positive supportive vibes from everyone there. I learned that we are all human and we make mistakes and that’s okay. Our harshest critique is ourselves and it’s important not to be too hard on ourselves and to look after ourselves first before anyone else. It’s important to enjoy life as a journey and not as a competition, to go with the flow and not focus all of your energy on the top prize. It’s important to remember why you started in the first place and to do it simply for that reason and for all the reasons that you stand for. This year proved once again that everyone in the hoop dance community is incredibly supportive of one another and we value ourselves in building each other up and looking out for another.

Below I will post some snapshots of the championships. Thank you once again to everyone for your overflow of support and love. I am incredibly grateful, appreciative and humbled to have such wonderful people surrounding me. I am looking forward to what’s to come, looking forward to keep on doing what I love and to continue to discover and learn through this crazy rollercoaster we call life. I’m so cliche. Anyway, hope you enjoy the snapshots. Take care for now.

12729362_10153221416862130_5731648702406328606_n
Myself and Patrick Willie from Orem, Utah.
12734251_10153221417532130_6324454312308773524_n
Rylee, 6 years old.
Meeting Nakotah Larance, 2nd time world hoop dance champion in the adult division, been attending & bringing home titles at the world’s since he was a kid.
12742664_10153221418702130_833687758301909163_n
James Jones from Edmonton, Alberta.

12715683_10153221417247130_4757407872481654456_n 12717410_10153221417362130_463708482847709583_n 12715515_10208105396614076_3231573738097367270_nhoopdaaa 12733965_10153221418987130_7736387295697902438_n  12742559_10153221419197130_5514354732968934028_n 12745580_10153221417672130_2554955412689445078_n

 

What does Dancing Mean to You?

As a hoop dancer and fancy shawl dancer I often get the question, “What does dancing mean to you?” or “What is the meaning behind it?” and my answers usually vary. For myself personally, dancing is very special to me. I was taught that hoop dancing is a form of healing for oneself, for their friends and family and for the community as a whole. I was also taught that it was a form of storytelling and that each and every dancer is unique in this way, through telling their own stories. I love to dance because I dance for those things, it brings me joy to see children get excited or for crowds of people to be so engaged and enthralled by the shapes I create. It’s an amazing feeling to spread that happiness and educate everyone on a little piece of who I am and what our Indigenous culture strives for.

I have also been a teacher/mentor at two programs here in Winnipeg. One with the City of Winnipeg for inner city youth and the other for a group of young women with the Wii ChiiWaakanak Centre at the University of Winnipeg. After a couple of years of them dancing, I was curious to hear what it meant to them and how they felt as a dancer, so I decided to ask.

Some of their responses surprised me in a very good way.
Here is what they said.

IMG_79144finalIMG_79166final
IMG_79188final

IMG_7919final
IMG_7921final IMG_79233finalIMG_79400IMG_79411IMG_79377 IMG_79388

 

Are you a dancer as well? Showcase cultural talent? Dance ballet, jazz, hiphop, tap or any others? What does it mean to you and how do you feel when your out there showing your thang? I’m curious to know, let me know down below in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Hoop Dance Portraits

During the spring of 2015 I had the privilege and wonderful opportunity to visit the Avenue Photography Studio in the east side of Winnipeg, Manitoba owned by the creative founder, Robert Dearden. We had the chance to collaborate together in order to capture some shots of dance and “indigenized” portraits. I was very grateful for the opportunity and impressed with the final copies.

Robert Dearden has always been a well known photographer in our community. He studied photography at Red River College and shoots a range of photography including studio portraiture, community and multicultural events, weddings, newborns and maternity,  powwows and many others. He attends these events here in Winnipeg and throughout the province with his camera and gear in hand making sure to capture the right moments. He also appreciates the art of photography and honours the importance of quality and value. His work can be found on his Facebook page by clicking HERE or his personal website at www.robertdeardenphotography.com

Below I have posted some of my favourite’s from the shoot but there is lots more of where they came from so if you would like to see more just suggest it down in the comments and I may just post a part two. I also strongly recommend checking out Robert’s work and supporting his local business. I hope you enjoy the images as much as I do. I am also taking bookings for the remainder of 2015 and into 2016 so if you would like my services as a hoop dancer, fancy shawl dancer or speaker you can contact me by filling out a contact form below. I would love to hear from you!

kinanâskomitin / Thank You.

11995539_538314636316378_751092868_n

  11997047_538314786316363_1271965278_n11358784_500051760142666_454020323_n11304456_500057990142043_482115803_n dfg11944710_538314856316356_326351893_n 11998393_538314859649689_1383335453_n11998422_538314899649685_21121632_n11925650_532965656851276_1604276765_n 11920479_533667400114435_2143627575_n 11940259_533667473447761_1314185883_n11938778_533667423447766_1838741585_n11272214_500058116808697_508041975_n 11289816_500058100142032_273011147_n

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

24 Hours In Dryden Ontario

IMG_7646

7:00 AM up bright and early, essential Tim Hortons coffee stop and then we were ready for the approximate 4 hour road trip down to the small town of Dryden, Ontario, Canada.

24 hours later my travelling partner (a.k.a my wonderful mother) and I were heading home with great vibes, stories to tell, new connections, people we had met and a collection of significant photographs to reminisce over our wonderful 24 hour getaway.

My mother and I were invited to Dryden to participate in their annual honouring youth powwow at their local high school. It was very lovely to see so many youth, young women and the whole school up and dancing during intertribal’s along with their teachers.

IMG_7640

ShorIMG_7634tly after the regular powwow protocols of the grand entry, flag song, veteran song, prayer, intertribal and honour songs it was time for my mother and I to showcase our dances. The MC handed me the mic and I proceeded to introduce myself and share my teachings of the Indigenous traditional hoop dance. I then began to dance to the sound of the drum, making sure to use up as much space as I could, to practice some new formations and moves I had been eager to try in front of an audience and to try my best to keep the room engaged with my performance. When I was finished I was greeted with a large applause.

Then it was my IMG_7636mother’s turn. They proceeded to drum a song for her as the young women were asked to watch because they would be trying after. My mother looked beautiful as she kept in time with the beat, her golden jingles creating that comforting familiar sound and her feathered fan raised high in the air at every check beat. After, as promised, the young women came up to dance alongside of her. They all had such enthusiasm in their eyes and watched my mother closely again as they tried to mimic her fancy contemporary jingle dress style foot work.

IMG_7644IMG_7658

IMG_7653The powwow had been held annually for over 20 years and the man who had started it all was still teaching and hosting the powwow at the school. His name was Leonard Skye. He was a gentle, loving and incredibly respected man in the community and was honoured while we there for his years of dedication to the school, the youth and his community.

He will be retiring this year so they held a special honour song for him, as students came up giving him hugs and words of thanks. They then proceeded to honour him with awards such as the prestigious one shown in the photograph which was to be hung in the city hall. He is originally from Eagle Lake, 15 minutes west of Dryden and was a residential school survivor. He spoke with so much passion and pride and you could feel the love and respect everyone had for him.

The next day after the powwow, we decided to take a detour before heading home to check out the round dance that Eagle Lake was hosting to honour the missing and murdered Indigenous women. It was a gorgeous warm day with a slight breeze and when we arrived they had hung symbolic red dresses throughout the community to signify those they had lost and to honour them as they are still loved, valued and remembered. After a beautiful round dance of women, men, youth, elders and the whole Eagle Lake community, everyone was given a pouch of tobacco to offer to one of the sacred fires that were set up in each sacred direction. Everyone then proceeded to walk down the road to choose a specific sacred fire to offer their tobacco.

I was so glad that we were able to come and witness such a resilient and strong community and to partake in the round dance and offering of tobacco. After that we had to hit the highway to make it back to city but we made sure to make some time to pull over and create an inukshuk along the way since the highway between Winnipeg and Dryden are full of them and we had always wished to do  that one day and then we had the chance!

IMG_7661 IMG_7660 IMG_7663

Overall it was a very nice 24 hour trip and I was incredibly appreciative and thankful for our invite to their community to dance. I hope to continue to travel to a variety of communities to showcase my dancing and share the teachings I was given.

Thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far. Please feel free to like, share or comment below. If there is anything I discussed in this post that you would like an extended explanation/post on let me know and I can definitely do that! Also feel free to leave any other suggestions of future posts you may like to see. Please stay tuned and subscribe to this blog to keep updated with my adventures. I hope to start posting one every week or to get on some sort of blogging schedule.

Take care everyone.

● Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba ●

IMG_7549Myself and a crew of dancers from Winnipeg made our way north east to the small community of Little Grand Rapids. We made our way through long winding snowy highways, never ending rough winter roads, drove across the ice roads which was my first time anxiety prone experience and had a couple vehicles end up in the ditch. But alas, we had made our way there all in one piece.

For all of us women, they let us crash in their community lodge which was a very comfortable facility with our own beds and just enough space for everything. We were very grateful and appreciative of their hospitality, kindness and welcoming during our visit. Then it was time to powwow!

The powwow took place in the gym of the local Abbalak Thunderswift Memorial School. There was three drum groups which included the community drum, a visiting drum from Saskatchewan and one from Winnipeg. There was also three craft tables and a good amount of dancers which made for a nice little powwow. It went on for two days and they fed us very good with three hearty meals a day and snacks in between. The entire community was very friendly and always smiling and I believe all of us winnipegger’s felt very welcomed.

I was also asked by the school to come back and do hoop dance/powwow dancing workshops with the youth which I hope will pull through because that would be simply awesome and overall it was very good trip to this friendly little community and to experience and dance our hearts out at their powwow. I now look forward to the powwow trail this summer and to possibly come back to their powwow next year! I have selected some very special snapshots from the weekend and coupled it with its own description underneath, enjoy!

IMG_7503blog
As we all pulled over on the highway for a driving break, one of the vehicles hit a patch of ice and slid into the deep ditch of snow. The situation ended up with a chain attached to the truck behind and as that truck pulled the entire family of that vehicle pushed. It ended up with it coming out of the ditch but with a smoking hood due to an unattached belt and excessive pressing on the gas. Besides the delay in our commute it all ended well and we got there safely.
IMG_7506blog
Relaxing in the “Thunderbird” Lodge after our 5-6 hour drive. Photographed here is my grandmother Lucy.
Some of the dancers from Winnipeg and some of the community member of Little Grand Rapids all dancing together during an honor song.
Some of the dancers from Winnipeg and some of the community members of Little Grand Rapids all dancing together during an honor song.
IMG_7518
Abbalak Thunderswift Memorial School gym.

 

IMG_7523blog
I was handed tobacco and asked to speak to everyone a little about myself as a dancer and to share the background and teachings I was given about the traditional hoop dance.
IMG_7510blog
Tracy (Left), she was the one who had asked all of us dancers to come on out and support the powwow in Little Grand Rapids and my grandmother (Right) who had also came down for the visit. They were very proud about their hats :p
IMG_7552blog
Lorne Stevenson, a traditional dancer from Winnipeg who dances at almost every powwow and has performed at the DOTC First Nation’s pavilion during Folklorama.
Gayle Pruden, a very respected and beautiful jingle dress dancer from Winnipeg
Gayle Pruden, a very respected and beautiful jingle dress dancer from Winnipeg
IMG_7553blog
Lucy, My beautiful grandmother who dances the jingle dress style.
IMG_7548blog
This young woman inspired me immensely and proved to me that anything is possible if you have a passion for it and set your mind to it. She had hand sewn her entire gorgeous outfit all on her own. No sewing machines or fancy equipment. Something very admirable and to be proud of.
IMG_7556blog
This little adorable lady won our hearts. Her name was Lavina and she had shown quite an interest in our dancing. When we asked if she would like to come dance with us during intertribal her eyes lit up and she jumped up almost immediately. I showed her some fancy shawl steps and we danced around the gym. One of the nearby craft tables saw this and gifted her with her very own shawl. She was beyond excited and couldn’t stop dancing. She would mirror everything I would do including folding it nicely and putting on the back of her chair during breaks. I told her to take very good care of it and encouraged her to keep dancing and to keep practicing and that we would come back next year. During retreat I also gave her the chance to dance out with one of my hoops. I really hope we made a difference in her day and I hope she keeps it up and realizes how special and beautiful she was to all of us 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indigenous Hoop Dance

425985_295755500483790_1876397362_nn

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!

Travelled Northern Manitoba

IMG_6623

IMG_6636IMG_6649IMG_6632

I’M BACK!

Hello wonderful people! I feel like I haven’t written a post in a very long time & that is true so I am sorry for the lack of content & for my foolish unmotivated ways. Anyways… I have a nice adventure to fill you in on!

During the week of July 27th – August 4th I travelled up north in Manitoba with the family. We drove up to The Pas and visited some family in OCN then caught the train to Pukatawagon, Manitoba which consisted of a slow 12 hour ride full of hyper restless children, bone chilling air conditioning, beautiful northern scenery and the fresh smells of the outdoors. Luckily we managed to keep ourselves productive and occupied through that journey. Once we arrived in Puk we met up with more family; cousins, aunties, uncles, etc! During our stay up in Puk we danced everyday at their powwow which took place at their youth center for 3 days. We all felt so grateful for their wonderful hospitality, friendliness, and welcoming arms. We also had the chance to explore the area. Swimming at high rock, shopping at the Northern, driving up to the airport, carpooling to the sweat/sundance grounds and climbing up the Pukatawagon “mountain” and taking in the sights. I felt so humble and proud to meet so many strong women and family members who I am related to and share ancestry (sorry for the cheezyness). After the trip to Puk we headed back down the province to camp for one night in Clearwater Lake at the Guy Hill Residential School Gathering that was taking place. As we approached the grounds we all sat silent through the drive down the long, twisted, eerie gravel road with nothing but brush and solemness as we thought about those young children that were forcibly taken from their families and taken to this place. Some of my relatives attended this residential school which had one of the bad reputations of horrific abuse. My family and I had the chance to learn about local medicines and how to identify them. We also heard many stories that I will forever hold in my memory and we were surrounded by the spoken language of Cree which I was particularly grateful for since I would really like to learn it. After our stay at the grounds, I left feeling like I had the responsibility to keep the memory of these elders and their stories alive and to further educate people on what was on the residential school system and the effects it still has on our communities today. I also left feeling incredibly grateful to be surrounded by such strong, loving relatives and lucky to have had this experience and meet all those people. After we had left, we returned back to some civilization back in The Pas where we went to visit my grandpa who had passed away approximately 4 years ago. It was a lovely way to end our trip and we are all happy to be back on the road to hit back for home. 

After this trip and the entire experience I felt so much more grateful and humble for the experiences I have had in my life so far and grateful for the chance to see, hear, listen and learn from my family, elders and community. I hope to carry these memories far off into the future and educate others on what I have experienced in hopes of continuing the memory and not allowing our important indigenous heritage/culture fade away throughout the years.

I look forward to travelling back up north to possibly teach and host workshops on our culture, specifying on the hoop dance since their was a great interest from the community for that. I also want to find a way to give back to the community of Pukatawagon for everything they had done for us during our stay. I came home feeling a sense of renewal. I captured much more images of our time up north, if you would like to see more just “like” this post or comment down below requesting them! I must just do an extended post to showcase the beautiful images I had captured throughout our trip!

Thanks for reading! Much Love