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  • Vermilion Voice

VES - Indigenous Culture Day

Trina Waskewi performed the Women’s Traditional Dance at Vermilion Elementary School on June 1. Photos Angela Mouly

Drum beats thundered through the gymnasium and colourful regalia circled the floor as the Vermilion Elementary School hosted an Indigenous Culture Day on June 1. Honoured guests included the Treaty 6 Drum Group from Edmonton, and Dorcean Ryane along with the Pewasenakwan Primary School Dancers from Onion Lake. Kevin John emceed the event with drum leader, Quinton Tootoosis introducing each dance. Along with Principal Doherty, John honoured the elders; his mother, Helen John, and Quinton Tootoosis. Principal Doherty welcomed everyone and acknowledged the land on which we live and work as Treaty 6 territory as an act of reconciliation.

Rayden Pahtayken performed the Men’s Chicken Dance during the Indigenous Culture Day on June 1.

“The drum is made of all natural things, and is often said to be the heartbeat of the earth. Our people dance in the direction that the sun moves. For hundreds and hundreds of years our people have had a very deep understanding of how the world works. Tobacco is used mostly for ceremonial purposes, as well as some medicinal,” said John who also noted the other sacred plants as sweetgrass, sage, and juniper. Drummers represented various regions of Treaty 6, and Tootoosis said, “Today we’re here to celebrate with you! Notice the regalia; there is a lot of beadwork which takes a long time. The women’s buckskin regalia has a black tipped eagle feather and a bald eagle honourary fan. The Men’s Chicken Dance regalia has a bustle with hawk and chicken feathers, porcupine hair on the roach, cuffs and arm bands, as well as bells.” Various styles of dance included the Women’s Fancy Shawl, the Women’s Traditional, the Men’s Chicken Dance, the Men’s Traditional, the Boy’s Fancy, two Intertribal dances, and a Round Dance.

Left: Pewasenakwan Primary School Dancers at VES on June 1.

Middle: The Treaty 6 Drum Group played and sang a selection of songs during the Indigenous Culture Day at VES.

Right: The Pewasenakwan Primary School Dancers joined other dancers during the Intertribal Dance at VES.

“At the end of the season, our people gather to celebrate the Round Dance which was historically used to honour relationships, and is sometimes called the ‘Friendship Dance’. That was one of the best elementary school intertribal dances I’ve ever seen in my life; great job of participating! It’s these times of good relationships that create opportunity for more interactions,” said John. Hundreds of children, families, and teachers were given the opportunity to join in, and overall everyone loved being a part of Indigenous Culture Day. The afternoon continued with several activities including bannock making and Cree language, an Indigenous artifact station, moss bag teaching, a jingle dress station, Inuit games, traditional healing songs, and traditional story telling.

Back row from left, Trina Waskewi, Rayden Pahtayken, Kevin John, Principal Sheila Doherty, and Vice Principal Raelene Tupper.

Middle row from left, Dillon Chase, Kianna Whitstone, Austin Wolfe, Kiarra Whitstone, Dorcean Ryane, and Elder Helen John.

Front row from left, Edward Okanee, Shaun Singer, Shonan Awasis, Drum Leader Quinton Tootoosis, Winter Skye Baptiste, and Larron Oxebin.

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