Salmon Arm Observer

Sharing aboriginal dance traditions in the Shuswap

Grass Dancer Tyler Jensen opens celebrations by blessing the ground as he beats down the grass with his dancing feet. - Lynda Hooper
Grass Dancer Tyler Jensen opens celebrations by blessing the ground as he beats down the grass with his dancing feet.
— image credit: Lynda Hooper

On Monday Feb. 20, a group of young aboriginal dancers from Vernon were accompanied by the band Little Hawk, at a performance in the gymnasium at Carlin Elementary Middle School.

The session was narrated by Okanagan Indian Band elder Emery Robins, and presented to two separate groups of students, one for elementary students, followed by another performance for middle school students.

The first dance at powwow gatherings, Robins explained, is the Grass Dance. The grass dancer in this case was Tyler Jensen, who blesses the ground for the celebration, and beats down the grass with dancing feet, for proceedings to follow.

Music for the grass dance is upbeat and powerful, and brought out some emotional feelings.

Little Hawk Band members were Tim Edwards, Bill Robins, Derek ‘Buck’ Sheena, and Sammy Seymour.

Next up was Shanny Bearshirt, who performed the Women’s Traditional dance, a much slower-paced dance, showing respect for grandmothers, mothers and all other women in the community.

Shanny’s name was given to her by her grandmother and means ‘woman of the mountains.’ She gracefully danced around the band in the middle of the gym.

Yetko Bearshirt was up next to perform the Medicine Dance was Yetko, Shanny’s older sister, who has one many prizes at dance competitions. Yetko’s name means ‘clear water.’

The Young Man’s Traditional Dance was performed by Emery Robins, son of elder emcee Emery. When the younger Robins isn’t dancing, he’s steer-roping, bull-riding, and playing hockey.

All costumes were decorated beautifully with bald and golden eagle feathers, and fur pelts from small animals.

Emery was responsible for the work in creating the costumes and props.

Ending the performance with a Butterfly Dance, brightly colored shawls swirling to the music, a reminder spring will soon be here.


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